Proto-oncogene, Pim-3 with serine/threonine kinase activity, is aberrantly expressed in human colon cancer cells and can prevent Bad-mediated apoptosis

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We previously observed that Pim-3 with serine/threonine kinase activity, was aberrantly expressed in malignant lesions of endoderm-derived organs, liver and pancreas. Because Pim-3 protein was not detected in normal colon mucosal tissues, we evaluated Pim-3 expression in malignant lesions of human colon, another endoderm-derived organ. Pim-3 was detected immunohistochemically in well-differentiated (43/68 cases) and moderately differentiated (23/41 cases) but not poorly differentiated colon adenocarcinomas (0/5 cases). Moreover, Pim-3 proteins were detected in adenoma (35/40 cases) and normal mucosa (26/111 cases), which are adjacent to adenocarcinoma. Pim-3 was constitutively expressed in SW480 cells and the transfection with Pim-3 short hairpin RNA promoted apoptosis. In the same cell line, a pro-apoptotic molecule, Bad, was phosphorylated at Ser112 and Ser136 sites of phosphorylation that are representative of its inactive form. Ser112 but not Ser136 phosphorylation in this cell line was abrogated by Pim-3 knockdown. Furthermore, in human colon cancer tissues, Pim-3 co-localized with Bad in all cases (9/9) and with phospho-Ser112Bad in most cases (6/9). These observations suggest that Pim-3 can inactivate Bad by phosphorylating its Ser112 in human colon cancer cells and thus may prevent apoptosis and promote progression of human colon cancer.

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