Publications by authors named "Kathryn Balmanno"

26 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Dual-Mechanism ERK1/2 Inhibitors Exploit a Distinct Binding Mode to Block Phosphorylation and Nuclear Accumulation of ERK1/2.

Mol Cancer Ther 2020 02 20;19(2):525-539. Epub 2019 Nov 20.

Signalling Laboratory, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

The RAS-regulated RAF-MEK1/2-ERK1/2 signaling pathway is frequently deregulated in cancer due to activating mutations of growth factor receptors, RAS or BRAF. Both RAF and MEK1/2 inhibitors are clinically approved and various ERK1/2 inhibitors (ERKi) are currently undergoing clinical trials. To date, ERKi display two distinct mechanisms of action (MoA): catalytic ERKi solely inhibit ERK1/2 catalytic activity, whereas dual mechanism ERKi additionally prevents the activating phosphorylation of ERK1/2 at its T-E-Y motif by MEK1/2. These differences may impart significant differences in biological activity because T-E-Y phosphorylation is the signal for nuclear entry of ERK1/2, allowing them to access many key transcription factor targets. Here, we characterized the MoA of five ERKi and examined their functional consequences in terms of ERK1/2 signaling, gene expression, and antiproliferative efficacy. We demonstrate that catalytic ERKi promote a striking nuclear accumulation of p-ERK1/2 in KRAS-mutant cell lines. In contrast, dual-mechanism ERKi exploits a distinct binding mode to block ERK1/2 phosphorylation by MEK1/2, exhibit superior potency, and prevent the nuclear accumulation of ERK1/2. Consequently, dual-mechanism ERKi exhibit more durable pathway inhibition and enhanced suppression of ERK1/2-dependent gene expression compared with catalytic ERKi, resulting in increased efficacy across BRAF- and RAS-mutant cell lines.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-19-0505DOI Listing
February 2020

An mTORC1-to-CDK1 Switch Maintains Autophagy Suppression during Mitosis.

Mol Cell 2020 01 13;77(2):228-240.e7. Epub 2019 Nov 13.

Signalling Laboratory, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge CB22 3AT, UK. Electronic address:

Since nuclear envelope breakdown occurs during mitosis in metazoan cells, it has been proposed that macroautophagy must be inhibited to maintain genome integrity. However, repression of macroautophagy during mitosis remains controversial and mechanistic detail limited to the suggestion that CDK1 phosphorylates VPS34. Here, we show that initiation of macroautophagy, measured by the translocation of the ULK complex to autophagic puncta, is repressed during mitosis, even when mTORC1 is inhibited. Indeed, mTORC1 is inactive during mitosis, reflecting its failure to localize to lysosomes due to CDK1-dependent RAPTOR phosphorylation. While mTORC1 normally represses autophagy via phosphorylation of ULK1, ATG13, ATG14, and TFEB, we show that the mitotic phosphorylation of these autophagy regulators, including at known repressive sites, is dependent on CDK1 but independent of mTOR. Thus, CDK1 substitutes for inhibited mTORC1 as the master regulator of macroautophagy during mitosis, uncoupling autophagy regulation from nutrient status to ensure repression of macroautophagy during mitosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.molcel.2019.10.016DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6964153PMC
January 2020

MEK1/2 inhibitor withdrawal reverses acquired resistance driven by BRAF amplification whereas KRAS amplification promotes EMT-chemoresistance.

Nat Commun 2019 05 2;10(1):2030. Epub 2019 May 2.

Signalling Programme, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, CB22 3AT, UK.

Acquired resistance to MEK1/2 inhibitors (MEKi) arises through amplification of BRAF or KRAS to reinstate ERK1/2 signalling. Here we show that BRAF amplification and MEKi resistance are reversible following drug withdrawal. Cells with BRAF amplification are addicted to MEKi to maintain a precise level of ERK1/2 signalling that is optimal for cell proliferation and survival, and tumour growth in vivo. Robust ERK1/2 activation following MEKi withdrawal drives a p57-dependent G1 cell cycle arrest and senescence or expression of NOXA and cell death, selecting against those cells with amplified BRAF. p57 expression is required for loss of BRAF amplification and reversal of MEKi resistance. Thus, BRAF amplification confers a selective disadvantage during drug withdrawal, validating intermittent dosing to forestall resistance. In contrast, resistance driven by KRAS amplification is not reversible; rather ERK1/2 hyperactivation drives ZEB1-dependent epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and chemoresistance, arguing strongly against the use of drug holidays in cases of KRAS amplification.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09438-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6497655PMC
May 2019

Over-expressed, N-terminally truncated BRAF is detected in the nucleus of cells with nuclear phosphorylated MEK and ERK.

Heliyon 2018 Dec 20;4(12):e01065. Epub 2018 Dec 20.

Leicester Cancer Research Centre, Clinical Sciences Building, University of Leicester, Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester LE2 7LX, UK.

BRAF is a cytoplasmic protein kinase, which activates the MEK-ERK signalling pathway. Deregulation of the pathway is associated with the presence of mutations in human cancer, the most common being , although structural rearrangements, which remove N-terminal regulatory sequences, have also been reported. RAF-MEK-ERK signalling is normally thought to occur in the cytoplasm of the cell. However, in an investigation of BRAF localisation using fluorescence microscopy combined with subcellular fractionation of Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP)-tagged proteins expressed in NIH3T3 cells, surprisingly, we detected N-terminally truncated BRAF (ΔBRAF) in both nuclear and cytoplasmic compartments. In contrast, ΔCRAF and full-length, wild-type BRAF (BRAF) were detected at lower levels in the nucleus while full-length BRAF was virtually excluded from this compartment. Similar results were obtained using ΔBRAF tagged with the hormone-binding domain of the oestrogen receptor (hbER) and with the KIAA1549-ΔBRAF translocation mutant found in human pilocytic astrocytomas. Here we show that GFP-ΔBRAF nuclear translocation does not involve a canonical Nuclear Localisation Signal (NLS), but is suppressed by N-terminal sequences. Nuclear GFP-ΔBRAF retains MEK/ERK activating potential and is associated with the accumulation of phosphorylated MEK and ERK in the nucleus. In contrast, full-length GFP-BRAF and GFP-BRAF are associated with the accumulation of phosphorylated ERK but not phosphorylated MEK in the nucleus. These data have implications for cancers bearing single nucleotide variants or N-terminal deleted structural variants of .
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2018.e01065DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6304467PMC
December 2018

ERK1/2 signalling protects against apoptosis following endoplasmic reticulum stress but cannot provide long-term protection against BAX/BAK-independent cell death.

PLoS One 2017 20;12(9):e0184907. Epub 2017 Sep 20.

Signalling Laboratory, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, CB22 3AT, United Kingdom.

Disruption of protein folding in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) causes ER stress. Activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR) acts to restore protein homeostasis or, if ER stress is severe or persistent, drive apoptosis, which is thought to proceed through the cell intrinsic, mitochondrial pathway. Indeed, cells that lack the key executioner proteins BAX and BAK are protected from ER stress-induced apoptosis. Here we show that chronic ER stress causes the progressive inhibition of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK1/2) signalling pathway. This is causally related to ER stress since reactivation of ERK1/2 can protect cells from ER stress-induced apoptosis whilst ERK1/2 pathway inhibition sensitises cells to ER stress. Furthermore, cancer cell lines harbouring constitutively active BRAFV600E are addicted to ERK1/2 signalling for protection against ER stress-induced cell death. ERK1/2 signalling normally represses the pro-death proteins BIM, BMF and PUMA and it has been proposed that ER stress induces BIM-dependent cell death. We found no evidence that ER stress increased the expression of these proteins; furthermore, BIM was not required for ER stress-induced death. Rather, ER stress caused the PERK-dependent inhibition of cap-dependent mRNA translation and the progressive loss of pro-survival proteins including BCL2, BCLXL and MCL1. Despite these observations, neither ERK1/2 activation nor loss of BAX/BAK could confer long-term clonogenic survival to cells exposed to ER stress. Thus, ER stress induces cell death by at least two biochemically and genetically distinct pathways: a classical BAX/BAK-dependent apoptotic response that can be inhibited by ERK1/2 signalling and an alternative ERK1/2- and BAX/BAK-independent cell death pathway.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0184907PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5607168PMC
October 2017

RNA-binding proteins ZFP36L1 and ZFP36L2 promote cell quiescence.

Science 2016 Apr;352(6284):453-9

Laboratory of Lymphocyte Signalling and Development, The Babraham Institute, Cambridge CB22 3AT, UK.

Progression through the stages of lymphocyte development requires coordination of the cell cycle. Such coordination ensures genomic integrity while cells somatically rearrange their antigen receptor genes [in a process called variable-diversity-joining (VDJ) recombination] and, upon successful rearrangement, expands the pools of progenitor lymphocytes. Here we show that in developing B lymphocytes, the RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) ZFP36L1 and ZFP36L2 are critical for maintaining quiescence before precursor B cell receptor (pre-BCR) expression and for reestablishing quiescence after pre-BCR-induced expansion. These RBPs suppress an evolutionarily conserved posttranscriptional regulon consisting of messenger RNAs whose protein products cooperatively promote transition into the S phase of the cell cycle. This mechanism promotes VDJ recombination and effective selection of cells expressing immunoglobulin-μ at the pre-BCR checkpoint.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aad5978DOI Listing
April 2016

Identification of DYRK1B as a substrate of ERK1/2 and characterisation of the kinase activity of DYRK1B mutants from cancer and metabolic syndrome.

Cell Mol Life Sci 2016 Feb 7;73(4):883-900. Epub 2015 Sep 7.

Signalling Laboratory, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, CB22 3AT, UK.

The dual-specificity tyrosine-phosphorylation-regulated kinase, DYRK1B, is expressed de novo during myogenesis, amplified or mutated in certain cancers and mutated in familial cases of metabolic syndrome. DYRK1B is activated by cis auto-phosphorylation on tyrosine-273 (Y273) within the activation loop during translation but few other DYRK1B phosphorylation sites have been characterised to date. Here, we demonstrate that DYRK1B also undergoes trans-autophosphorylation on serine-421 (S421) in vitro and in cells and that this site contributes to DYRK1B kinase activity. Whilst a DYRK1B(S421A) mutant was completely defective for p-S421 in cells, DYRK1B inhibitors caused only a partial loss of p-S421 suggesting the existence of an additional kinase that could also phosphorylate DYRK1B S421. Indeed, a catalytically inactive DYRK1B(D239A) mutant exhibited very low levels of p-S421 in cells but this was increased by KRAS(G12V). In addition, selective activation of the RAF-MEK1/2-ERK1/2 signalling pathway rapidly increased p-S421 in cells whereas activation of the stress kinases JNK or p38 could not. S421 resides within a Ser-Pro phosphoacceptor motif that is typical for ERK1/2 and recombinant ERK2 phosphorylated DYRK1B at S421 in vitro. Our results show that DYRK1B is a novel ERK2 substrate, uncovering new links between two kinases involved in cell fate decisions. Finally, we show that DYRK1B mutants that have recently been described in cancer and metabolic syndrome exhibit normal or reduced intrinsic kinase activity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00018-015-2032-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4735261PMC
February 2016

Adaptation to mTOR kinase inhibitors by amplification of eIF4E to maintain cap-dependent translation.

J Cell Sci 2014 Feb 20;127(Pt 4):788-800. Epub 2013 Dec 20.

Signalling Programme, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge CB22 3AT, UK.

The mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) protein kinase coordinates responses to nutrients and growth factors and is an anti-cancer drug target. To anticipate how cells will respond and adapt to chronic mTOR complex (mTORC)1 and mTORC2 inhibition, we have generated SW620 colon cancer cells with acquired resistance to the ATP-competitive mTOR kinase inhibitor AZD8055 (SW620:8055R). AZD8055 inhibited mTORC1 and mTORC2 signalling and caused a switch from cap-dependent to internal ribosome entry site (IRES)-dependent translation in parental SW620 cells. In contrast, SW620:8055R cells exhibited a loss of S6K signalling, an increase in expression of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor eIF4E and increased cap-dependent mRNA translation. As a result, the expression of CCND1 and MCL1, proteins encoded by eIF4E-sensitive and cap-dependent transcripts, was refractory to AZD8055 in SW620:8055R cells. RNAi-mediated knockdown of eIF4E reversed acquired resistance to AZD8055 in SW620:8055R cells; furthermore, increased expression of eIF4E was sufficient to reduce sensitivity to AZD8055 in a heterologous cell system. Finally, although the combination of MEK1/2 inhibitors with mTOR inhibitors is an attractive rational drug combination, SW620:8055R cells were actually cross-resistant to the MEK1/2 inhibitor selumetinib (AZD6244). These results exemplify the convergence of ERK1/2 and mTOR signalling at eIF4E, and the key role of eIF4E downstream of mTOR in maintaining cell proliferation. They also have important implications for therapeutic strategies based around mTOR and the MEK1/2-ERK1/2 pathway.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jcs.137588DOI Listing
February 2014

Adaptation to chronic mTOR inhibition in cancer and in aging.

Biochem Soc Trans 2013 Aug;41(4):956-61

Signalling Programme, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge CB22 3AT, UK.

The mTOR [mammalian (or mechanistic) target of rapamycin] protein kinase co-ordinates catabolic and anabolic processes in response to growth factors and nutrients and is a validated anticancer drug target. Rapamycin and related allosteric inhibitors of mTORC1 (mTOR complex 1) have had some success in specific tumour types, but have not exhibited broad anticancer activity, prompting the development of new ATP-competitive mTOR kinase inhibitors that inhibit both mTORC1 and mTORC2. In common with other targeted kinase inhibitors, tumours are likely to adapt and acquire resistance to mTOR inhibitors. In the present article, we review studies that describe how tumour cells adapt to become resistant to mTOR inhibitors. mTOR is a central signalling hub which responds to an array of signalling inputs and activates a range of downstream effector pathways. Understanding how this signalling network is remodelled and which pathways are invoked to sustain survival and proliferation in the presence of mTOR inhibitors can provide new insights into the importance of the various mTOR effector pathways and may suggest targets for intervention to combine with mTOR inhibitors. Finally, since chronic mTOR inhibition by rapamycin can increase lifespan and healthspan in nematodes, fruitflies and mice, we contrast these studies with tumour cell responses to mTOR inhibition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1042/BST20130080DOI Listing
August 2013

Tumour cell responses to MEK1/2 inhibitors: acquired resistance and pathway remodelling.

Biochem Soc Trans 2012 Feb;40(1):73-8

Laboratory of Signalling and Cell Fate, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge CB22 3AT, UK.

The Raf/MEK1/2 [mitogen-activated protein kinase/ERK (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase) kinase 1/2]/ERK1/2 signalling pathway is frequently activated in human tumours due to mutations in BRAF or KRAS. B-Raf and MEK1/2 inhibitors are currently undergoing clinical evaluation, but their ultimate success is likely to be limited by acquired drug resistance. We have used colorectal cancer cell lines harbouring mutations in B-Raf or K-Ras to model acquired resistance to the MEK1/2 inhibitor selumetinib (AZD6244). Selumetinib-resistant cells were refractory to other MEK1/2 inhibitors in cell proliferation assays and exhibited a marked increase in MEK1/2 and ERK1/2 activity and cyclin D1 abundance when assessed in the absence of inhibitor. This was driven by a common mechanism in which resistant cells exhibited an intrachromosomal amplification of their respective driving oncogene, B-Raf V600E or K-RasG13D. Despite the increased signal flux from Raf to MEK1/2, resistant cells maintained in drug actually exhibited the same level of ERK1/2 activity as parental cells, indicating that the pathway is remodelled by feedback controls to reinstate the normal level of ERK1/2 signalling that is required and sufficient to maintain proliferation in these cells. These results provide important new insights into how tumour cells adapt to new therapeutics and highlight the importance of homoeostatic control mechanisms in the Raf/MEK1/2/ERK1/2 signalling cascade.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1042/BST20110647DOI Listing
February 2012

Regulation of MEK/ERK pathway output by subcellular localization of B-Raf.

Biochem Soc Trans 2012 Feb;40(1):67-72

Department of Biochemistry, Henry Wellcome Building, University of Leicester, Lancaster Road, Leicester LE1 9HN, UK.

The strength and duration of intracellular signalling pathway activation is a key determinant of the biological outcome of cells in response to extracellular cues. This has been particularly elucidated for the Ras/Raf/MEK [mitogen-activated growth factor/ERK (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase) kinase]/ERK signalling pathway with a number of studies in fibroblasts showing that sustained ERK signalling is a requirement for S-phase entry, whereas transient ERK signalling does not have this capability. A major unanswered question, however, is how a cell can sustain ERK activation, particularly when ERK-specific phosphatases are transcriptionally up-regulated by the pathway itself. A major point of ERK regulation is at the level of Raf, and, to sustain ERK activation in the presence of ERK phosphatases, sustained Raf activation is a requirement. Three Raf proteins exist in mammals, and the activity of all three is induced following growth factor stimulation of cells, but only B-Raf activity is maintained at later time points. This observation points to B-Raf as a regulator of sustained ERK activation. In the present review, we consider evidence for a link between B-Raf and sustained ERK activation, focusing on a potential role for the subcellular localization of B-Raf in this key physiological event.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1042/BST20110621DOI Listing
February 2012

CDK1, not ERK1/2 or ERK5, is required for mitotic phosphorylation of BIMEL.

Cell Signal 2012 Jan 8;24(1):170-80. Epub 2011 Sep 8.

Laboratory of Signalling & Cell Fate, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, UK.

The pro-apoptotic BH3 only protein BIM(EL) is phosphorylated by ERK1/2 and this targets it for proteasome-dependent degradation. A recent study has shown that ERK5, an ERK1/2-related MAPK, is activated during mitosis and phosphorylates BIM(EL) to promote cell survival. Here we show that treatment of cells with nocodazole or paclitaxel does cause phosphorylation of BIM(EL), which is independent of ERK1/2. However, this was not due to ERK5-catalysed phosphorylation, since it was not reversed by the MEK5 inhibitor BIX02189 and proceeded normally in ERK5-/- fibroblasts. Indeed, although ERK5 is phosphorylated at multiple sites in the C-terminal transactivation region during mitosis, these do not include the activation-loop and ERK5 kinase activity does not increase. Mitotic phosphorylation of BIM(EL) occurred at proline-directed phospho-acceptor sites and was abolished by selective inhibition of CDK1. Furthermore, cyclin B1 was able to interact with BIM and cyclin B1/CDK1 complexes could phosphorylate BIM in vitro. Finally, we show that CDK1-dependent phosphorylation of BIM(EL) drives its polyubiquitylation and proteasome-dependent degradation to protect cells during mitotic arrest. These results provide new insights into the regulation of BIM(EL) and may be relevant to the therapeutic use of agents such as paclitaxel.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cellsig.2011.08.018DOI Listing
January 2012

A correction to the research article titled: "Amplification of the driving oncogene, KRAS or BRAF, underpins acquired resistance to MEK1/2 inhibitors in colorectal cancer cells" by A. S. Little, K. Balmanno, M. J. Sale, S. Newman, J. R. Dry, M. Hampson, P. A. W. Edwards, P. D. Smith, S. J. Cook.

Sci Signal 2011 ;4(170):er2

Laboratory of Molecular Signalling, Babraham Institute, Cambridge, UK.

The acquisition of resistance to protein kinase inhibitors is a growing problem in cancer treatment. We modeled acquired resistance to the MEK1/2 (mitogen-activated or extracellular signal–regulated protein kinase kinases 1 and 2) inhibitor selumetinib (AZD6244) in colorectal cancer cell lines harboring mutations in BRAF (COLO205 and HT29 lines) or KRAS (HCT116 and LoVo lines). AZD6244-resistant derivatives were refractory to AZD6244-induced cell cycle arrest and death and exhibited a marked increase in ERK1/2 (extracellular signal–regulated kinases 1 and 2) pathway signaling and cyclin D1 abundance when assessed in the absence of inhibitor. Genomic sequencing revealed no acquired mutations in MEK1 or MEK2, the primary target of AZD6244. Rather, resistant lines showed a marked up-regulation of their respective driving oncogenes, BRAF600E or KRAS13D, due to intrachromosomal amplification. Inhibition of BRAF reversed resistance to AZD6244 in COLO205 cells, which suggested that combined inhibition of MEK1/2 and BRAF may reduce the likelihood of acquired resistance in tumors with BRAF600E. Knockdown of KRAS reversed AZD6244 resistance in HCT116 cells as well as reduced the activation of ERK1/2 and protein kinase B; however, the combined inhibition of ERK1/2 and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase signaling had little effect on AZD6244 resistance, suggesting that additional KRAS effector pathways contribute to this process. Microarray analysis identified increased expression of an 18-gene signature previously identified as reflecting MEK1/2 pathway output in resistant cells. Thus, amplification of the driving oncogene (BRAF600E or KRAS13D) can drive acquired resistance to MEK1/2 inhibitors by increasing signaling through the ERK1/2 pathway. However, up-regulation of KRAS13D leads to activation of multiple KRAS effector pathways, underlining the therapeutic challenge posed by KRAS mutations. These results may have implications for the use of combination therapies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/scisignal.4170er2DOI Listing
August 2011

Amplification of the driving oncogene, KRAS or BRAF, underpins acquired resistance to MEK1/2 inhibitors in colorectal cancer cells.

Sci Signal 2011 Mar 29;4(166):ra17. Epub 2011 Mar 29.

Laboratory of Molecular Signalling, Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge CB22 3AT, UK.

The acquisition of resistance to protein kinase inhibitors is a growing problem in cancer treatment. We modeled acquired resistance to the MEK1/2 (mitogen-activated or extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase kinases 1 and 2) inhibitor selumetinib (AZD6244) in colorectal cancer cell lines harboring mutations in BRAF (COLO205 and HT29 lines) or KRAS (HCT116 and LoVo lines). AZD6244-resistant derivatives were refractory to AZD6244-induced cell cycle arrest and death and exhibited a marked increase in ERK1/2 (extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2) pathway signaling and cyclin D1 abundance when assessed in the absence of inhibitor. Genomic sequencing revealed no acquired mutations in MEK1 or MEK2, the primary target of AZD6244. Rather, resistant lines showed a marked up-regulation of their respective driving oncogenes, BRAF(600E) or KRAS(13D), due to intrachromosomal amplification. Inhibition of BRAF reversed resistance to AZD6244 in COLO205 cells, which suggested that combined inhibition of MEK1/2 and BRAF may reduce the likelihood of acquired resistance in tumors with BRAF(600E). Knockdown of KRAS reversed AZD6244 resistance in HCT116 cells as well as reduced the activation of ERK1/2 and protein kinase B; however, the combined inhibition of ERK1/2 and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase signaling had little effect on AZD6244 resistance, suggesting that additional KRAS effector pathways contribute to this process. Microarray analysis identified increased expression of an 18-gene signature previously identified as reflecting MEK1/2 pathway output in resistant cells. Thus, amplification of the driving oncogene (BRAF(600E) or KRAS(13D)) can drive acquired resistance to MEK1/2 inhibitors by increasing signaling through the ERK1/2 pathway. However, up-regulation of KRAS(13D) leads to activation of multiple KRAS effector pathways, underlining the therapeutic challenge posed by KRAS mutations. These results may have implications for the use of combination therapies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/scisignal.2001752DOI Listing
March 2011

Apoptosis and autophagy: BIM as a mediator of tumour cell death in response to oncogene-targeted therapeutics.

FEBS J 2009 Nov 29;276(21):6050-62. Epub 2009 Sep 29.

Laboratory of Molecular Signalling, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, UK.

The BCL-2 homology domain 3 (BH3)-only protein, B-cell lymphoma 2 interacting mediator of cell death (BIM) is a potent pro-apoptotic protein belonging to the B-cell lymphoma 2 protein family. In recent years, advances in basic biology have provided a clearer picture of how BIM kills cells and how BIM expression and activity are repressed by growth factor signalling pathways, especially the extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 and protein kinase B pathways. In tumour cells these oncogene-regulated pathways are used to counter the effects of BIM, thereby promoting tumour cell survival. In parallel, a new generation of targeted therapeutics has been developed, which show remarkable specificity and efficacy in tumour cells that are addicted to particular oncogenes. It is now apparent that the expression and activation of BIM is a common response to these new therapeutics. Indeed, BIM has emerged from this marriage of basic and applied biology as an important mediator of tumour cell death in response to such drugs. The induction of BIM alone may not be sufficient for significant tumour cell death, as BIM is more likely to act in concert with other BH3-only proteins, or other death pathways, when new targeted therapeutics are used in combination with traditional chemotherapy agents. Here we discuss recent advances in understanding BIM regulation and review the role of BIM as a mediator of tumour cell death in response to novel oncogene-targeted therapeutics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1742-4658.2009.07329.xDOI Listing
November 2009

Intrinsic resistance to the MEK1/2 inhibitor AZD6244 (ARRY-142886) is associated with weak ERK1/2 signalling and/or strong PI3K signalling in colorectal cancer cell lines.

Int J Cancer 2009 Nov;125(10):2332-41

Laboratory of Molecular Signalling, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, England, United Kingdom.

Mutations in KRAS or BRAF frequently manifest in constitutive activation of the MEK1/2-ERK1/2 signalling pathway. The MEK1/2-selective inhibitor, AZD6244 (ARRY-142886), blocks ERK1/2 activation and is currently undergoing clinical evaluation. Tumour cells can vary markedly in their response to MAPK or ERK kinase (MEK) inhibitors, and the presence of a BRAF mutation is thought to predict sensitivity, with the RAS mutations being associated with intrinsic resistance. We analysed cell proliferation in a panel of 19 colorectal cancer cell lines and found no simple correlation between BRAF or KRAS mutation and sensitivity to AZD6244, though cells that harbour neither mutation tended to be resistant. Cells that were sensitive arrested in G(1) and/or underwent apoptosis and the presence of BRAF or KRAS mutation was not sufficient to predict either fate. Cell lines that were resistant to AZD6244 exhibited low or no ERK1/2 activation or exhibited coincident activation of ERK1/2 and protein kinase B (PKB), the latter indicative of activation of the PI3K pathway. In cell lines with coincident ERK1/2 and PKB activation, sensitivity to AZD6244 could be re-imposed by any of the 3 distinct PI3K/mTOR inhibitors. We conclude that AZD6244 is effective in colorectal cancer cell lines with BRAF or KRAS mutations. Sensitivity to MEK1/2 inhibition correlates with a biochemical signature; those cells with high ERK1/2 activity (whether mutant for BRAF or KRAS) evolve a dependency upon that pathway and tend to be sensitive to AZD6244 but this can be offset by high PI3K-dependent signalling. This may have implications for the use of MEK inhibitors in combination with PI3K inhibitors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ijc.24604DOI Listing
November 2009

ERK1/2-dependent phosphorylation of BimEL promotes its rapid dissociation from Mcl-1 and Bcl-xL.

EMBO J 2007 Jun 24;26(12):2856-67. Epub 2007 May 24.

Laboratory of Molecular Signalling, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, UK.

The proapoptotic protein Bim is expressed de novo following withdrawal of serum survival factors. Here, we show that Bim-/- fibroblasts and epithelial cells exhibit reduced cell death following serum withdrawal in comparison with their wild-type counterparts. In viable cells, Bax associates with Bcl-2, Bcl-x(L) and Mcl-1. Upon serum withdrawal, newly expressed Bim(EL) associates with Bcl-x(L) and Mcl-1, coinciding with the dissociation of Bax from these proteins. Survival factors can prevent association of Bim with pro-survival proteins by preventing Bim expression. However, we now show that even preformed Bim(EL)/Mcl-1 and Bim(EL)/Bcl-x(L) complexes can be rapidly dissociated following activation of ERK1/2 by survival factors. The dissociation of Bim from Mcl-1 is specific for Bim(EL) and requires ERK1/2-dependent phosphorylation of Bim(EL) at Ser(65). Finally, ERK1/2-dependent dissociation of Bim(EL) from Mcl-1 and Bcl-x(L) may play a role in regulating Bim(EL) degradation, since mutations in the Bim(EL) BH3 domain that disrupt binding to Mcl-1 cause increased turnover of Bim(EL). These results provide new insights into the role of Bim in cell death and its regulation by the ERK1/2 survival pathway.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/sj.emboj.7601723DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1894764PMC
June 2007

The duration of ERK1/2 activity determines the activation of c-Fos and Fra-1 and the composition and quantitative transcriptional output of AP-1.

Cell Signal 2007 Apr 15;19(4):695-704. Epub 2006 Sep 15.

Laboratory of Molecular Signalling, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, UK.

The duration of ERK1/2 activation influences the nature of the biological response to agonist. Members of the AP-1 transcription factor family are well known targets of the ERK1/2 pathway and are expressed in a temporally coordinated fashion during cell cycle re-entry. In CCl39 fibroblasts, sustained ERK1/2 activation is required for the expression of Fra-1, Fra-2, c-Jun and JunB, whereas expression of c-Fos is still strongly induced even in response to transient ERK activation. However, the significance of this pattern of expression for AP-1 activity has not been addressed. Here we show that growth factor stimulated activation of the C-terminal c-Fos transactivation domain (TAD) serves as a sensor for ERK1/2 signal duration whereas the c-JunTAD is not responsive to growth factors. In addition, sustained ERK1/2 activation determines the duration of increases in AP-1 DNA binding complexes as well as their qualitative make up. Finally, this is reflected in both the duration and quantitative transcriptional output of stably integrated AP-1 reporter constructs, indicating that AP-1 activity is finely tuned to ERK1/2 signal duration. These results provide new insights into the importance of ERK1/2 signal duration in the regulation of AP-1 and provide an explanation for how differences in signal duration can lead to both quantitative and qualitative changes in gene expression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cellsig.2006.09.001DOI Listing
April 2007

The conditional kinase DeltaMEKK1:ER* selectively activates the JNK pathway and protects against serum withdrawal-induced cell death.

Cell Signal 2005 Nov;17(11):1412-22

Laboratory of Molecular Signalling, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge CB2 4AT, UK.

The conditional protein kinase DeltaMEKK3:ER* allows activation of the mitogen-activated and stress-activated protein kinases (MAPKs and SAPKs) without imposing a primary cellular stress or damage. Such separation of stress from stress-induced signalling is particularly important in the analysis of apoptosis. Activation of DeltaMEKK3:ER* in cycling CCl39 cells caused a rapid stimulation of the ERK1/2, JNK and p38 pathways but resulted in a slow, delayed apoptotic response. Paradoxically, activation of the same pathways inhibited the rapid expression of Bim(EL) and apoptosis following withdrawal of serum. Inhibition of the ERK1/2 pathway prevented the down-regulation of Bim(EL) but caused only a partial reversion of the cyto-protective effect of DeltaMEKK3:ER*. In contrast, inhibition of p38 had no effect, raising the possibility that activation of JNK might also exert a protective effect. To test this we used CCl39 cells expressing DeltaMEKK1:ER* which activates JNK but not ERK1/2, p38, PKB or IkappaB kinase. Activation of DeltaMEKK1:ER* inhibited serum withdrawal-induced conformational changes in Bax and apoptosis. These results suggest that in the absence of any overt cellular damage or chemical stress activation of JNK can act independently of the ERK1/2 or PKB pathways to inhibit serum withdrawal-induced cell death.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cellsig.2005.02.006DOI Listing
November 2005

ERK1/2 and p38 cooperate to induce a p21CIP1-dependent G1 cell cycle arrest.

Oncogene 2004 Apr;23(19):3284-95

Signalling Programme, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Hall, Cambridge CB2 4AT, UK.

To study the mechanisms by which mitogen- and stress-activated protein kinases regulate cell cycle re-entry, we have used a panel of conditional kinases that stimulate defined MAPK or SAPK cascades. Activation of DeltaMEKK3:ER* during serum restimulation of quiescent cells causes a strong activation of JNK1 and p38alpha but only a modest potentiation of serum-stimulated ERK1/2 activity. In CCl39 cells this promoted a sustained G1 arrest that correlated with decreased expression of cyclin D1 and Cdc25A, increased expression of p21CIP1 and inhibition of CDK2 activity. In Rat-1 cells, in which p21(CIP1) expression is silenced by methylation, DeltaMEKK3:ER* activation caused only a transient delay in the S phase entry rather than a sustained G1 arrest. Furthermore, p21CIP1-/- 3T3 cells were defective for the DeltaMEKK3:ER*-induced G1 cell cycle arrest compared to their wild-type counterparts. These results suggest that activated DeltaMEKK3:ER* inhibits the G1 --> S progression by two kinetically distinct mechanisms, with expression of p21CIP1 being required to ensure a sustained G1 cell cycle arrest. The ERK1/2 and p38alphabeta pathways cooperated to induce p21CIP1 expression and inhibition of p38alphabeta caused a partial reversal of the cell cycle arrest. In contrast, selective activation of ERK1/2 by DeltaRaf-1:ER* did not inhibit serum stimulated cell cycle re-entry. Finally, selective activation of JNK by DeltaMEKK1:ER* failed to inhibit cell cycle re-entry, even in cells that retained wild-type p53, arguing against a major role for JNK alone in antagonizing the G1 --> S transition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/sj.onc.1207467DOI Listing
April 2004

Extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1/2 are serum-stimulated "Bim(EL) kinases" that bind to the BH3-only protein Bim(EL) causing its phosphorylation and turnover.

J Biol Chem 2004 Mar 17;279(10):8837-47. Epub 2003 Dec 17.

Laboratory of Molecular Signalling, Signalling Programme, The Babraham Institute, Cambridge CB2 4AT, United Kingdom.

Bim, a "BH3-only" protein, is expressed de novo following withdrawal of serum survival factors and promotes cell death. We have shown previously that activation of the ERK1/2 pathway promotes phosphorylation of Bim(EL), targeting it for degradation via the proteasome. However, the nature of the kinase responsible for Bim(EL) phosphorylation remained unclear. We now show that Bim(EL) is phosphorylated on at least three sites in response to activation of the ERK1/2 pathway. By using the peptidylprolyl isomerase, Pin1, as a probe for proline-directed phosphorylation, we show that ERK1/2-dependent phosphorylation of Bim(EL) occurs at (S/T)P motifs. ERK1/2 phosphorylates Bim(EL), but not Bim(S) or Bim(L), in vitro, and mutation of Ser(65) to alanine blocks the phosphorylation of Bim(EL) by ERK1/2 in vitro and in vivo and prevents the degradation of the protein following activation of the ERK1/2 pathway. We also find that ERK1/2, but not JNK, can physically associate with GST-Bim(EL), but not GST-Bim(L) or GST-Bim(S), in vitro. ERK1/2 also binds to full-length Bim(EL) in vivo, and we have localized a potential ERK1/2 "docking domain" lying within a 27-amino acid stretch of the Bim(EL) protein. Our findings provide new insights into the post-translational regulation of Bim(EL) and the role of the ERK1/2 pathway in cell survival signaling.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M311578200DOI Listing
March 2004

DeltaRaf-1:ER* bypasses the cyclic AMP block of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2 activation but not CDK2 activation or cell cycle reentry.

Mol Cell Biol 2003 Dec;23(24):9303-17

Signalling Programme, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Hall, Cambridge CB2 4AT, England, UK.

Elevation of cellular cyclic AMP (cAMP) levels inhibits cell cycle reentry in a variety of cell types. While cAMP can prevent the activation of Raf-1 and extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) by growth factors, we now show that activation of ERK1/2 by DeltaRaf-1:ER is insensitive to cAMP. Despite this, DeltaRaf-1:ER-stimulated DNA synthesis is still inhibited by cAMP, indicating a cAMP-sensitive step downstream of ERK1/2. Although cyclin D1 expression has been proposed as an alternative target for cAMP, we found that cAMP could inhibit DeltaRaf-1:ER-induced cyclin D1 expression only in Rat-1 cells, not in CCl39 or NIH 3T3 cells. DeltaRaf-1:ER-stimulated activation of CDK2 was strongly inhibited by cAMP in all three cell lines, but cAMP had no effect on the induction of p21(CIP1). cAMP blocked the fetal bovine serum (FBS)-induced degradation of p27(KIP1); however, loss of p27(KIP1) in response to DeltaRaf-1:ER was less sensitive in CCl39 and Rat-1 cells and was completely independent of cAMP in NIH 3T3 cells. The most consistent effect of cAMP was to block both FBS- and DeltaRaf-1:ER-induced expression of Cdc25A and cyclin A, two important activators of CDK2. When CDK2 activity was bypassed by activation of the ER-E2F1 fusion protein, cAMP no longer inhibited expression of Cdc25A or cyclin A but still inhibited DNA synthesis. These studies reveal multiple points of cAMP sensitivity during cell cycle reentry. Inhibition of Raf-1 and ERK1/2 activation may operate early in G(1), but when this early block is bypassed by DeltaRaf-1:ER, cells still fail to enter S phase due to inhibition of CDK2 or targets downstream of E2F1.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC309715PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mcb.23.24.9303-9317.2003DOI Listing
December 2003

Thrombin inhibits Bim (Bcl-2-interacting mediator of cell death) expression and prevents serum-withdrawal-induced apoptosis via protease-activated receptor 1.

Biochem J 2003 Oct;375(Pt 1):99-109

Signalling Programme, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Hall, Cambridge CB2 4AT, UK.

To investigate the role of thrombin in regulating apoptosis, we have used CCl39 cells, a fibroblast cell line in which thrombin-induced cell proliferation has been extensively studied. Withdrawal of serum from CCl39 cells resulted in a rapid apoptotic response that was completely prevented by the inclusion of thrombin. The protective effect of thrombin was reversed by pertussis toxin, suggesting that cell-survival signalling pathways are activated via a G(i) or G(o) heterotrimeric GTPase. Serum-withdrawal-induced death required de novo gene expression and was preceded by the rapid de novo expression of the pro-apoptotic 'BH3-only' protein Bim (Bcl-2-interacting mediator of cell death). Thrombin strongly inhibited the up-regulation of both Bim protein and Bim mRNA. The ability of thrombin to repress Bim expression, and to protect cells from apoptosis, was reversed by U0126, a MEK1/2 [MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) or ERK (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase) 1/2] inhibitor, or LY294002, a phosphoinositide 3'-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor, suggesting that both the Raf-->MEK-->ERK1/2 and PI3K pathways co-operate to repress Bim and promote cell survival. A PAR1p (protease-activated receptor 1 agonist peptide) was also able to protect cells from serum-withdrawal-induced apoptosis, suggesting that thrombin acts via PAR1 to prevent apoptosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1042/BJ20030346DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1223666PMC
October 2003

Activation of the ERK1/2 signaling pathway promotes phosphorylation and proteasome-dependent degradation of the BH3-only protein, Bim.

J Biol Chem 2003 May 19;278(21):18811-6. Epub 2003 Mar 19.

Inositide Laboratory, Signalling Programme, The Babraham Institute, Cambridge CB2 4AT, United Kingdom.

Both the ERK and phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathways can protect cells from apoptosis following withdrawal of survival factors. We have previously shown that the ERK1/2 pathway acts independently of PI3K to block expression of the BH3-only protein, BimEL, and prevent serum withdrawal-induced cell death, although the precise mechanism by which ERK reduced BimEL levels was unclear. By comparing Bim mRNA and Bim protein, expression we now show that the rapid expression of BimEL following serum withdrawal cannot be accounted for simply by increases in mRNA following inhibition of PI3K. In cells maintained in serum BimEL is a phosphoprotein. We show that activation of the ERK1/2 pathway is both necessary and sufficient to promote BimEL phosphorylation and that this leads to a substantial increase in turnover of the BimEL protein. ERK1/2-dependent degradation of BimEL proceeds via the proteasome pathway because it is blocked by proteasome inhibitors and is defective at the restrictive temperature in cells with a temperature-sensitive mutation in the E1 component of the ubiquitin-conjugating system. Finally, co-transfection of BimEL and FLAG-ubiquitin causes the accumulation of polyubiquitinated forms of Bim, and this requires the ERK1/2 pathway. Our findings provide new insights into the regulation of Bim and the role of the ERK pathway in cell survival.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M301010200DOI Listing
May 2003

Activation of ERK1/2 by deltaRaf-1:ER* represses Bim expression independently of the JNK or PI3K pathways.

Oncogene 2003 Mar;22(9):1281-93

Signalling Program, The Babraham Institute, Cambridge, UK.

CC139 fibroblasts are one of several model systems in which the Raf --> MEK --> ERK1/2 pathway can inhibit apoptosis independently of the PI3K pathway; however, the precise mechanism for this protective effect is not known. Serum withdrawal from CC139 fibroblasts resulted in the rapid onset of apoptosis, which was prevented by actinomycin D or cycloheximide. Serum withdrawal promoted the rapid, de novo accumulation of Bim(EL), a proapoptotic 'BH3-only' member of the Bcl-2 protein family. Bim(EL) expression was an early event, occurring several hours prior to caspase activation. In contrast to studies in neurons, activation of the JNK --> c-Jun pathway was neither necessary nor sufficient to induce Bim(EL) expression. Selective inhibition of either the ERK pathway (with U0126) or the PI3K pathway (with LY294002) caused an increase in the expression of Bim(EL). Furthermore, selective activation of the ERK1/2 pathway by deltaRaf-1:ER* substantially reduced Bim(EL) expression, abolished conformational changes in Bax and blocked the appearance of apoptotic cells. The ability of deltaRaf-1:ER* to repress Bim(EL) expression required the ERK pathway but was independent of the PI3K --> PDK --> PKB pathway. Thus, serum withdrawal-induced expression of Bim(EL) occurs independently of the JNK --> c-Jun pathway and can be repressed by the ERK pathway independently of the PI3K pathway. This may contribute to Raf- and Ras-induced cell survival at low serum concentrations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/sj.onc.1206261DOI Listing
March 2003

Delta MEKK3:ER* activation induces a p38 alpha/beta 2-dependent cell cycle arrest at the G2 checkpoint.

Oncogene 2002 Nov;21(53):8089-104

Inositide Laboratory, Signalling Programme, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Hall, Cambridge CB2 4AT, UK.

Whilst many studies have examined the role of the MAP Kinases in regulating the G1-->S transition, much less is known about the function of these pathways in regulating other cell cycle transitions. Stimulation of the conditional mutant Delta MEKK3:ER* in asynchronous hamster (CCl39) and rat (Rat-1) fibroblasts resulted in the strong activation of endogenous JNK and p38 but only a weak activation of ERK. Activation of Delta MEKK3:ER* inhibited cell proliferation through a combination of an initial G1 and G2 cell cycle arrest, followed by a delayed onset of apoptosis. When cells were synchronized in S phase with aphidicolin and then released, activation of Delta MEKK3:ER* resulted in the up-regulation of p21(CIP1) and a pronounced inhibition of cyclin A/CDK2 and cyclin B1/CDK1 kinase activity. Analysis of mitotic figures indicated that cells failed to enter mitosis, arresting late in G2. Delta MEKK3:ER*-mediated CDK inhibition and G2 arrest did not absolutely require p21(CIP1), since both events were observed in Rat-1 cells in which p21(CIP1) is transcriptionally silenced due to promoter methylation. Rather, CDK inhibition was associated with a down-regulation of cyclin A and B1 expression. Finally, application of the p38 inhibitor SB203580 partially restored cyclin B associated kinase activity and allowed cells to proceed through mitosis into the next G1 phase, suggesting that activation of the p38 alpha/beta 2 pathway can promote a G2 cell cycle arrest.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/sj.onc.1206000DOI Listing
November 2002