Advances in clinical, translational, and basic studies of metastasis have identified molecular changes associated with specific facets of the metastatic process. Studies of metastasis suppressor gene function are providing a critical mechanistic link between signaling cascades and biological outcomes. We have previously identified c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) kinase 1/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) kinase 4 (JNKK1/MKK4) as a prostate cancer metastasis suppressor gene. The JNKK1/MKK4 protein is a dual-specificity kinase that has been shown to phosphorylate and activate the JNK and p38 MAPKs in response to a variety of extracellular stimuli. In this current study, we show that the kinase activity of JNKK1/MKK4 is required for suppression of overt metastases and is sufficient to prolong animal survival in the AT6.1 model of spontaneous metastasis. Ectopic expression of the JNK-specific kinase MKK7 suppresses the formation of overt metastases, whereas the p38-specific kinase MKK6 has no effect. In vivo studies show that both JNKK1/MKK4 and MKK7 suppress the formation of overt metastases by inhibiting the ability of disseminated cells to colonize the lung (secondary site). Finally, we show that JNKK1/MKK4 and MKK7 from disseminated tumor cells are active in the lung but not in the primary tumor, providing a biochemical explanation for why their expression specifically suppressed metastasis while exerting no effect on the primary tumor. Taken together, these studies contribute to a mechanistic understanding of the context-dependent function of metastasis regulatory proteins.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research