Human hemokinin-1 promotes migration of melanoma cells and increases MMP-2 and MT1-MMP expression by activating tumor cell NK1 receptors

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Receptors and their regulatory peptides are aberrantly expressed in tumors, suggesting a potential tumor therapy target. Human hemokinin-1 (hHK-1) is a tachykinin peptide ligand of the neurokinin-1 (NK1) receptor which is overexpressed in melanoma and other tumor tissues. Here, we investigated the role of hHK-1 and the NK1 receptor in melanoma cell migration. NK1 receptor expression was associated with melanoma metastatic potential. Treatment with hHK-1 significantly enhanced A375 and B16F10 melanoma cell migration and an NK1 receptor antagonist L732138 blocked this effect. MMP-2 and MT1-MMP expression were up-regulated in hHK-1-treated melanoma cells and cell signaling data suggested that hHK-1 induced phosphorylation of ERK1/2, JNK and p38 by way of PKC or PKA. Kinase activation led to increased MMP-2 and MT1-MMP expression and melanoma cell migration induced by hHK-1. Thus, hHK-1 and the NK1 receptor are critical to melanoma cell migration and each may be a promising chemotherapeutic target.

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