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Open Access Research article

Increased diacylglycerol kinase ζ expression in human metastatic colon cancer cells augments Rho GTPase activity and contributes to enhanced invasion

Kun Cai1, Kirk Mulatz1, Ryan Ard12, Thanh Nguyen1 and Stephen H Gee1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa, 451 Smyth Rd, Ottawa, ON K1H 8 M5, Canada

2 Present address: Institute of Cell Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, 6.34 Swann Building, Edinburgh EH9 3JR, UK

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:208  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-208

Published: 19 March 2014

Abstract

Background

Unraveling the signaling pathways responsible for the establishment of a metastatic phenotype in carcinoma cells is critically important for understanding the pathology of cancer. The acquisition of cell motility is a key property of metastatic tumor cells and is a prerequisite for invasion. Rho GTPases regulate actin cytoskeleton reorganization and the cellular responses required for cell motility and invasion. Diacylglycerol kinase ζ (DGKζ), an enzyme that phosphorylates diacylglycerol to yield phosphatidic acid, regulates the activity of the Rho GTPases Rac1 and RhoA. DGKζ mRNA is highly expressed in several different colon cancer cell lines, as well as in colon cancer tissue relative to normal colonic epithelium, and thus may contribute to the metastatic process.

Methods

To investigate potential roles of DGKζ in cancer metastasis, a cellular, isogenic model of human colorectal cancer metastatic transition was used. DGKζ protein levels, Rac1 and RhoA activity, and PAK phosphorylation were measured in the non-metastatic SW480 adenocarcinoma cell line and its highly metastatic variant, the SW620 line. The effect of DGKζ silencing on Rho GTPase activity and invasion through Matrigel-coated Transwell inserts was studied in SW620 cells. Invasiveness was also measured in PC-3 prostate cancer and MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells depleted of DGKζ.

Results

DGKζ protein levels were elevated approximately 3-fold in SW620 cells compared to SW480 cells. There was a concomitant increase in active Rac1 in SW620 cells, as well as substantial increases in the expression and phosphorylation of the Rac1 effector PAK1. Similarly, RhoA activity and expression were increased in SW620 cells. Knockdown of DGKζ expression in SW620 cells by shRNA-mediated silencing significantly reduced Rac1 and RhoA activity and attenuated the invasiveness of SW620 cells in vitro. DGKζ silencing in highly metastatic MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells and PC-3 prostate cancer cells also significantly attenuated their invasiveness.

Conclusion

Elevated DGKζ expression contributes to increased Rho GTPase activation and the enhanced motility of metastatic cancer cells. These findings warrant further investigation of the clinical relevance of DGKζ upregulation in colon and other cancers. Interfering with DGKζ function could provide a means of inhibiting invasion and metastasis.

Keywords:
Colon carcinoma; Diacylglycerol kinase; Rho GTPase; Metastasis