Constitutive activation of the EGFR-STAT1 axis increases proliferation of meningioma tumor cells.
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Background: Meningiomas are the most frequent primary brain tumors of the central nervous system. The standard of treatment is surgery and radiotherapy, but effective pharmacological options are not available yet. The well-characterized genetic background stratifies these tumors in several subgroups, thus increasing diversification. We identified epidermal growth factor receptor-signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (EGFR-STAT1) overexpression and activation as a common identifier of these tumors. Methods: We analyzed STAT1 overexpression and phosphorylation in 131 meningiomas of different grades and locations by utilizing several techniques, including Western blots, qPCR, and immunocytochemistry. We also silenced and overexpressed wild-type and mutant forms of the gene to assess its biological function and its network. Results were further validated by drug testing. Results: STAT1 was found widely overexpressed in meningioma but not in the corresponding healthy controls. The protein showed constitutive phosphorylation not dependent on the JAK-STAT pathway. STAT1 knockdown resulted in a significant reduction of cellular proliferation and deactivation of AKT and ERK1/2. STAT1 is known to be activated by EGFR, so we investigated the tyrosine kinase and found that EGFR was also constitutively phosphorylated in meningioma and was responsible for the aberrant phosphorylation of STAT1. The pharmaceutical inhibition of EGFR caused a significant reduction in cellular proliferation and of overall levels of cyclin D1, pAKT, and pERK1/2. Conclusions: STAT1-EGFR-dependent constitutive phosphorylation is responsible for a positive feedback loop that causes its own overexpression and consequently an increased proliferation of the tumor cells. These findings provide the rationale for further studies aiming to identify effective therapeutic options in meningioma.
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