TAM family receptor tyrosine kinases comprising Tyro3 (Sky), Axl, and Mer are overexpressed in some cancers, correlate with multidrug resistance and contribute to tumourigenesis by regulating invasion, angiogenesis, cell survival and tumour growth. Mutations in the gene coding for a tumour suppressor merlin cause development of multiple tumours of the nervous system such as schwannomas, meningiomas and ependymomas occurring spontaneously or as part of a hereditary disease neurofibromatosis type 2. The benign character of merlin-deficient tumours makes them less responsive to chemotherapy. We previously showed that, amongst other growth factor receptors, TAM family receptors (Tyro3, Axl and Mer) are significantly overexpressed in schwannoma tissues. As Axl is negatively regulated by merlin and positively regulated by E3 ubiquitin ligase CRL4DCAF1, previously shown to be a key regulator in schwannoma growth we hypothesized that Axl is a good target to study in merlin-deficient tumours. Moreover, Axl positively regulates the oncogene Yes-associated protein, which is known to be under merlin regulation in schwannoma and is involved in increased proliferation of merlin-deficient meningioma and mesothelioma. Here, we demonstrated strong overexpression and activation of Axl receptor as well as its ligand Gas6 in human schwannoma primary cells compared to normal Schwann cells. We show that Gas6 is mitogenic and increases schwannoma cell-matrix adhesion and survival acting via Axl in schwannoma cells. Stimulation of the Gas6/Axl signalling pathway recruits Src, focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and NFκB. We showed that NFκB mediates Gas6/Axl-mediated overexpression of survivin, cyclin D1 and FAK, leading to enhanced survival, cell-matrix adhesion and proliferation of schwannoma. We conclude that Axl/FAK/Src/NFκB pathway is relevant in merlin-deficient tumours and is a potential therapeutic target for schwannoma and other merlin-deficient tumours.



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Peninsula Medical School


Blotting, Western, Cell Adhesion, Cell Proliferation, Cell Survival, Cells, Cultured, Cyclin D1, Enzyme Inhibitors, Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases, Focal Adhesion Kinase 1, Humans, Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins, Neurilemmoma, Proto-Oncogene Proteins, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt, RNA Interference, Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases, Schwann Cells, Signal Transduction, Transcription Factor RelA, Tumor Cells, c-Mer Tyrosine Kinase, Axl Receptor Tyrosine Kinase