The role of insulin-like growth factors signaling in merlin-deficient human schwannomas.
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Loss of the tumor suppressor merlin causes development of the tumors of the nervous system, such as schwannomas, meningiomas, and ependymomas occurring spontaneously or as part of a hereditary disease Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2). Current therapies, (radio) surgery, are not always effective. Therefore, there is a need for drug treatments for these tumors. Schwannomas are the most frequent of merlin-deficient tumors and are hallmark for NF2. Using our in vitro human schwannoma model, we demonstrated that merlin-deficiency leads to increased proliferation, cell-matrix adhesion, and survival. Increased proliferation due to strong activation of extracellular-signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) is caused by overexpression/activation of platelet-derived growth factor receptor-β (PDGFR-β) and ErbB2/3 which we successfully blocked with AZD6244, sorafenib, or lapatinib. Schwannoma basal proliferation is, however, only partly dependent on PDGFR-β and is completely independent of ErbB2/3. Moreover, the mechanisms underlying pathological cell-matrix adhesion and survival of schwannoma cells are still not fully understood. Here, we demonstrate that insulin-like growth factor-I receptor (IGF-IR) is strongly overexpressed and activated in human primary schwannoma cells. IGF-I and -II are overexpressed and released from schwannoma cells. We show that ERK1/2 is relevant for IGF-I-mediated increase in proliferation and cell-matrix adhesion, c-Jun N-terminal kinases for increased proliferation and AKT for survival. We demonstrate new mechanisms involved in increased basal proliferation, cell-matrix adhesion, and survival of schwannoma cells. We identified therapeutic targets IGF-IR and downstream PI3K for treatment of schwannoma and other merlin-deficient tumors and show usefulness of small molecule inhibitors in our model. PI3K is relevant for both IGF-IR and previously described PDGFR-β signaling in schwannoma.
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