Open Access Research article

Met receptor-induced Grb2 or Shc signals both promote transformation of intestinal epithelial cells, albeit they are required for distinct oncogenic functions

Véronique Pomerleau, Mélissa Landry, Jimmy Bernier, Pierre H Vachon and Caroline Saucier*

Author Affiliations

Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Université de Sherbrooke, 3201, rue Jean-Mignault, Sherbrooke, Quebec J1E 4K8, Canada

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:240  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-240

Published: 4 April 2014

Abstract

Background

Deregulation of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK) contributes to the initiation and progression of intestinal-derived epithelial cancers, including colorectal cancer (CRC). However, the roles of the proximal signaling molecules engaged by RTKs in different oncogenic functions of CRC remain unclear.

Methods

Herein, the functional impact of expressing variant forms of the oncogenic Met receptor (Tpr-Met) that selectively recruit the adaptor proteins Grb2 or Shc was investigated in a model derived from normal intestinal epithelial cells (IEC-6). An RNA interference (RNAi) approach was used to define the requirement of Grb2 or Shc in Tpr-Met-transformed IEC-6 cells. Since Grb2 and Shc couple RTKs to the activation of the Ras/MEK/Erk and PI3K/Akt pathways, Erk and Akt phosphorylation/activation states were monitored in transformed IEC-6 cells, and a pharmacological approach was employed to provide insights into the roles of these pathways in oncogenic processes evoked by activated Met, and downstream of Grb2 and Shc.

Results

We show, for the first time, that constitutive activation of either Grb2 or Shc signals in IEC-6 cells, promotes morphological transformation associated with down-regulation of E-cadherin, as well as increased cell growth, loss of growth contact inhibition, anchorage-independent growth, and resistance to serum deprivation and anoikis. Oncogenic activation of Met was revealed to induce morphological transformation, E-cadherin down-regulation, and protection against anoikis by mechanisms dependent on Grb2, while Shc was shown to be partly required for enhanced cell growth. The coupling of activated Met to the Ras/MEK/Erk and PI3K/Akt pathways, and the sustained engagement of Grb2 or Shc in IECs, was shown to trigger negative feedback, limiting the extent of activation of these pathways. Nonetheless, morphological alterations and E-cadherin down-regulation induced by the oncogenic Tpr-Met, and by Grb2 or Shc signals, were blocked by MEK, but not PI3K, inhibitors while the enhanced growth and resistance to anoikis induced by Tpr-Met were nearly abolished by co-treatment with both inhibitors.

Conclusion

Overall, these results identify Grb2 and Shc as central signaling effectors of Met-driven progression of intestinal epithelial-derived cancers. Notably, they suggest that Grb2 may represent a promising target for the design of novel CRC therapies.

Keywords:
Receptor tyrosine kinase; Grb2; Shc; Met; Intestinal epithelial cell; Transformation; Proliferation; Anoikis; MAPK; PI3K; Colorectal cancer