Knockdown of PAK4 or PAK1 inhibits the proliferation of mutant KRAS colon cancer cells independently of RAF/MEK/ERK and PI3K/AKT signaling

Hana Tabusa, Teresa Brooks, Andrew J Massey
Molecular Cancer Research: MCR 2013, 11 (2): 109-21
The p21-activated kinase (PAK) serine/threonine kinases are important effectors of the small GTPases Rac and Cdc42, and play significant roles in controlling cell growth, motility, and transformation. Knockdown of PAK4 or PAK1 inhibited the proliferation of mutant KRAS or BRAF colon cancer cells in vitro. Dependence on PAK4 or PAK1 protein for colon cancer cell proliferation was independent of PAK4 or PAK1 protein expression levels. Mutant KRAS HCT116 colorectal cells were the most sensitive to PAK4 or PAK1 knockdown resulting in the potent inhibition of anchorage-dependent and -independent proliferation as well as the formation and proliferation of HCT116 colon cancer spheroids. This inhibition of proliferation did not correlate with inhibition of RAF/MEK/ERK or PI3K/AKT signaling. In HCT116 cells, knockdown of PAK4 or PAK1 caused changes to the actin cytoskeleton resulting in reduced basal spread and cell elongation and increased cell rounding. These cytoskeletal rearrangements seemed to be independent of LIMK/cofilin/paxillin phosphorylation. PAK4 or PAK1 knockdown initially induced growth arrest in HCT116 cells followed by cell death at later time points. Inhibition of the antiapoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and Bcl-X(L) with the pharmacologic inhibitor ABT-737 increased effector caspase activation and apoptosis, and reduced cell survival with PAK4 or PAK1 knockdown. These results support a role for the PAKs in the proliferation of mutant KRAS-driven colorectal carcinoma cells via pathways not involving RAF/MEK/ERK and PI3K/AKT signaling.

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