Tumor hypoxia drives metastatic progression, drug resistance, and posttreatment relapses, but how cancer cells adapt and evolve in response to hypoxic stress is not well understood. In this study, we address this question with the discovery that the receptor tyrosine kinase RON translocates into the nucleus of hypoxic cancer cells. In response to hypoxia, nuclear RON interacts with the hypoxia-inducible factor HIF-1α in a manner that relies on RON tyrosine kinase activity, binding to the c-JUN promoter and activating it. Mechanistic investigations revealed unexpectedly that nuclear RON played a more important role in activation of the c-JUN promoter than HIF-1α, leading to increased cell proliferation, survival adaptation, in vitro migration, and tumorigenicity under hypoxic conditions. Taken together, our results pointed to a novel function for RON as a transcriptional regulator that promotes the survival of cancer cells subjected to hypoxia. These results suggest novel implications for the use of small-molecule inhibitors or monoclonal antibodies targeting the RON kinase in the prevention or treatment of advanced cancer.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cancer Research