Transforming growth factor beta signaling via Ras in mesenchymal cells requires p21-activated kinase 2 for extracellular signal-regulated kinase-dependent transcriptional responses

Kaori Suzuki, Mark C Wilkes, Nandor Garamszegi, Maryanne Edens, Edward B Leof
Cancer Research 2007 April 15, 67 (8): 3673-82
Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) signaling via Smad proteins occurs in various cell types. However, whereas the biological response to TGF-beta can be as distinct as growth promoting (i.e., mesenchymal cells) versus growth inhibiting (i.e., epithelial cells), few discernible differences in TGF-beta signaling have been reported. In the current study, we examined the role of Ras in the proliferative response to TGF-beta and how it might interface with Smad-dependent and Smad-independent TGF-beta signaling targets. TGF-beta stimulated Ras activity in a subset of mesenchymal, but not epithelial, cultures and was required for extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-dependent transcriptional responses. Although dominant negative Ras had no effect on TGF-beta internalization or Smad-dependent signaling (i.e., phosphorylation, nuclear translocation, or SBE-luciferase activity), it did prevent the hyperphosphorylation of the Smad transcriptional corepressor TG-interacting factor (TGIF). This was not sufficient, however, to overcome the mitogenic response stimulated by TGF-beta, which was dependent on signals downstream of p21-activated kinase 2 (PAK2). Moreover, although the initial activation of Ras and PAK2 are distinctly regulated, TGF-beta-stimulated PAK2 activity is required for Ras-dependent ERK phosphorylation and Elk-1 transcription. These findings show the requirement for crosstalk between two Smad-independent pathways in regulating TGF-beta proliferation and indicate that the mechanism(s) by which TGF-beta stimulates growth is not simply the opposite of its growth inhibitory actions.

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