Cripto is a developmental oncoprotein that signals via mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt and Smad2/3 pathways. However, the molecular basis for Cripto coupling to these pathways during embryogenesis and tumorigenesis is not fully understood. In this regard, we recently demonstrated that Cripto forms a cell surface complex with the HSP70 family member glucose-regulated protein-78 (GRP78). Here, we provide novel functional evidence demonstrating that cell surface GRP78 is a necessary mediator of Cripto signaling in human tumor, mammary epithelial and embryonic stem cells. We show that targeted disruption of the cell surface Cripto/GRP78 complex using shRNAs or GRP78 immunoneutralization precludes Cripto activation of MAPK/PI3K pathways and modulation of activin-A, activin-B, Nodal and transforming growth factor-β1 signaling. We further demonstrate that blockade of Cripto binding to cell surface GRP78 prevents Cripto from increasing cellular proliferation, downregulating E-Cadherin, decreasing cell adhesion and promoting pro-proliferative responses to activin-A and Nodal. Thus, disrupting the Cripto/GRP78 binding interface blocks oncogenic Cripto signaling and may have important therapeutic value in the treatment of cancer.
Oncogene (2009) 28, 2324-2336; doi:10.1038/onc.2009.97; published online 4 May 2009