The RET receptor tyrosine kinase: mechanism, signaling and therapeutics
Gujral, Taranjit Singh
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The RET receptor tyrosine kinase has essential roles in cell survival, differentiation, and proliferation. Oncogenic activation of RET causes the cancer syndrome multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN 2), and is a frequent event in sporadic thyroid carcinomas. Multiple endocrine neoplasia 2B (MEN 2B), a subtype of MEN 2, is caused primarily by a methionine to threonine substitution of residue 918 in the kinase domain of the RET receptor (2B-RET), however the molecular mechanisms that lead to the disease phenotype are unclear. In this study, we show that the M918T mutation causes a 10 fold increase in ATP binding affinity, and leads to a more stable receptor-ATP complex, relative to the wildtype receptor. We also show that 2B-RET can dimerize and become autophosphorylated in the absence of ligand. Our data suggest that multiple distinct but complementary molecular mechanisms underlie the MEN 2B phenotype and provide potential targets for effective therapeutics for this disease. In the second part of the study, we identified a novel β-catenin-RET kinase signaling pathway which is a critical contributor to the development and metastasis of human thyroid carcinoma. We show that RET binds to, and tyrosine phosphorylates, β-catenin and demonstrate that the interaction between RET and β-catenin can be direct and independent of cytoplasmic kinases, such as SRC. As a result of RET-mediated tyrosine phosphorylation, β-catenin escapes cytosolic downregulation by the APC/Axin/GSK3 complex and accumulates in the nucleus, where it can stimulate β-catenin-specific transcriptional programs in a RET-dependent fashion. We show that downregulation of β-catenin activity decreases RET-mediated cell proliferation, colony formation, and tumour growth in nude mice. Finally, we used a structure guided approach to identify and characterize a novel, non-ATP competitive, RET inhibitor; SW-01. We show that SW-01 provides significant RET inhibition in an in vitro kinase assay using purified RET. Moreover, RET phosphorylation is blocked, or dramatically reduced, in vivo in cells overexpressing active RET. We observe a significant decrease in cell proliferation and colony formation in RET-expressing cells in the presence of SW-01. Together, our data suggest that SW-01 has potential as a novel RET kinase inhibitor with clinical utility.