The Role of Cellular Prion Protein in the Development of Schwannomas and other Merlin-Deficient Tumours
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Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) is an inherited, multiple tumour disease caused by loss of the tumour suppressor protein, Merlin. There are several tumours associated with NF2 including; ependymomas, meningiomas and schwannomas. Merlin loss can also occur sporadically in all of these tumours and is associated with upregulation of various growth factor receptors and their relevant signalling pathways. At present the only treatment options for NF2 are surgery or radiosurgery, both of which incur serious morbidity and are unable to prevent recurrence of tumours. Either new drug treatments, or re-profiling of other drugs already commercially available, are urgently needed to improve outcome for NF2 patients.
Cellular prion protein (PrPC), encoded by PRNP gene, is involved in tumour development by altering proliferation, adhesion, and survival in some cancers via focal adhesion kinase (FAK) /Src/ NFκB, cyclin D1 and p53 -proteins. Our group previously showed a strong elevation of PRNP gene activity in schwannoma. I hypothesise that PrPC may contribute to schwannoma development. To study the role of PrPC in schwannoma development I have used the well-established in vitro model of schwannoma that comprises primary human Schwann and schwannoma cells. I show that PrPC is upregulated in schwannoma as well as in Merlin-deficient meningiomas and human malignant mesotheliomas. In schwannoma PrPC is released both via exosomes and by α-cleavage which forms biologically active N- and C-terminal portions of the protein. PrPC contributes to pathological proliferation, adhesion and survival of schwannoma cells by activating ERK1/2, PI3K/AKT, cyclin D1, FAK, p53 pathways via the 37/67kDa non-integrin laminin receptor (LR/37/67kDa) and CD44.
Furthermore, schwannoma cells appear to be intrinsically drug-resistant due to upregulation of MDR1 protein p-glycoprotein (p-gp) expression. P-gp expression is dependent on PrPC thus, inhibiting PrPC may be a good potential new therapeutic option for schwannoma patients, either alone or in combination with Sorafenib and p-gp inhibitor Valspodar (PSC833). An inhibitor of LR/37/67kDa/PrP interaction, NSC47924, or Bortezomib, a proteasome/NFκB inhibitor which has been approved for the treatment of multiple myeloma, could also be of beneficial therapeutic effect and is something to investigate in future work. I conclude that PrPC is an interesting new therapeutic target through its involvement with schwannoma patholgenesis and resistance to drug treatments PrPC may prove to be a good therapeutic target in other NF2-related tumours like meningiomas and schwannomas.
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