Upregulation of MARCKS in kidney cancer and its potential as a therapeutic target
Targeted therapeutics, such as those abrogating hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)/vascular endothelial growth factor signaling, are initially effective against kidney cancer (or renal cell carcinoma, RCC); however, drug resistance frequently occurs via subsequent activation of alternative pathways. Through genome-scale integrated analysis of the HIF-α network, we identified the major protein kinase C substrate MARCKS (myristoylated alanine-rich C kinase substrate) as a potential target molecule for kidney cancer. In a screen of nephrectomy samples from 56 patients with RCC, we found that MARCKS expression and its phosphorylation are increased and positively correlate with tumor grade. Genetic and pharmacologic suppression of MARCKS in high-grade RCC cell lines in vitro led to a decrease in cell proliferation and migration. We further demonstrated that higher MARCKS expression promotes growth and angiogenesis in vivo in an RCC xenograft tumor. MARCKS acted upstream of the AKT/mTOR pathway, activating HIF-target genes, notably vascular endothelial growth factor-A. Following knockdown of MARCKS in RCC cells, the IC50 of the multikinase inhibitor regorafenib was reduced. Surprisingly, attenuation of MARCKS using the MPS (MARCKS phosphorylation site domain) peptide synergistically interacted with regorafenib treatment and decreased survival of kidney cancer cells through inactivation of AKT and mTOR. Our data suggest a major contribution of MARCKS to kidney cancer growth and provide an alternative therapeutic strategy of improving the efficacy of multikinase inhibitors.