TRAF4-mediated ubiquitination of NGF receptor TrkA regulates prostate cancer metastasis

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Abstract

Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) are important drivers of cancers. In addition to genomic alterations, aberrant activation of WT RTKs plays an important role in driving cancer progression. However, the mechanisms underlying how RTKs drive prostate cancer remain incompletely characterized. Here we show that non-proteolytic ubiquitination of RTK regulates its kinase activity and contributes to RTK-mediated prostate cancer metastasis. TRAF4, an E3 ubiquitin ligase, is highly expressed in metastatic prostate cancer. We demonstrated here that it is a key player in regulating RTK-mediated prostate cancer metastasis. We further identified TrkA, a neurotrophin RTK, as a TRAF4-targeted ubiquitination substrate that promotes cancer cell invasion and found that inhibition of TrkA activity abolished TRAF4-dependent cell invasion. TRAF4 promoted K27- and K29-linked ubiquitination at the TrkA kinase domain and increased its kinase activity. Mutation of TRAF4-targeted ubiquitination sites abolished TrkA tyrosine autophosphorylation and its interaction with downstream proteins. TRAF4 knockdown also suppressed nerve growth factor (NGF) stimulated TrkA downstream p38 MAPK activation and invasion-associated gene expression. Furthermore, elevated TRAF4 levels significantly correlated with increased NGF-stimulated invasion-associated gene expression in prostate cancer patients, indicating that this signaling axis is significantly activated during oncogenesis. Our results revealed a posttranslational modification mechanism contributing to aberrant non-mutated RTK activation in cancer cells.

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