p21-Activated kinases are required for transformation in a cell-based model of neurofibromatosis type 2

Hoi Yee Chow, Dina Stepanova, Jennifer Koch, Jonathan Chernoff
PloS One 2010, 5 (11): e13791

BACKGROUND: NF2 is an autosomal dominant disease characterized by development of bilateral vestibular schwannomas and other benign tumors in central nervous system. Loss of the NF2 gene product, Merlin, leads to aberrant Schwann cell proliferation, motility, and survival, but the mechanisms by which this tumor suppressor functions remain unclear. One well-defined target of Merlin is the group I family of p21-activated kinases, which are allosterically inhibited by Merlin and which, when activated, stimulate cell cycle progression, motility, and increased survival. Here, we examine the effect of Pak inhibition on cells with diminished Merlin function.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Using a specific peptide inhibitor of group I Paks, we show that loss of Pak activity restores normal cell movement in cells lacking Merlin function. In addition, xenografts of such cells form fewer and smaller tumors than do cells without Pak inhibition. However, in tumors, loss of Pak activity does not reduce Erk or Akt activity, two signaling proteins that are thought to mediate Pak function in growth factor pathways.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: These results suggest that Pak functions in novel signaling pathways in NF2, and may serve as a useful therapeutic target in this disease.

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