The role of PRAJA and ELF in TGF-β signaling and gastric cancer
Volume 4, Issue 7
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Pages 694 - 699http://dx.doi.org/10.4161/cbt.4.7.2015
Authors: Lopa Mishra, Varalakshmi Katuri and Stephen Evans View affiliations
Emerging research has shown that the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) pathway plays a key role in the suppression of gastric carcinoma. Biological signals for TGF-β are transduced through transmembrane serine/threonine kinase receptors, which in turn signal to Smad proteins. Inactivation of the TGF-β pathway often occurs in malignancies of the gastrointestinal system, including gastric cancer. Yet, only a fraction of sporadic gastric tumors exhibit inactivating mutations in early stages of cancer formation, suggesting that other mechanisms play a critical role in the inactivation of this pathway. Smad4, a tumor suppressor, is often mutated in human gastrointestinal cancers. The mechanism of Smad4 inactivation, however, remains uncertain and could be mediated through E3-mediated ubiquitination of Smad4/adaptor protein complexes. The regulation of the TGF-β pathway through a PRAJA, a RING finger (RING-H2) protein, and ELF, a β-Spectrin adaptor protein, both which were originally identified in endodermal stem/progenitor cells committed to foregut lineage, could play a pivotal role in gastric carcinogenesis. PRAJA, which functions as an E3 ligase, interacts with ELF in a TGF-β-dependent manner in gastric cancer cell lines. PRAJA is increased five-fold in human gastric cancers, and inactivates ELF. This is particularly significant since ELF, a Smad4 adaptor protein, possesses potent anti-oncogenic activity and is frequently seen to be inactivated in carcinogenic gastric cells. Strikingly, PRAJA manifests substantial E3-dependent ubiquitination of ELF and Smad3, but not Smad4. The alteration of ELF and/or Smad4 expression and function in the TGF-? signaling pathway may be induced by enhancement of ELF degradation, which is mediated by the high level expression of PRAJA in gastrointestinal cancers. These studies reveal a mechanism for gastric tumorigenesis whereby defects in adaptor proteins for Smads, such as ELF, can undergo degradation by PRAJA, through the ubiquitin-mediated pathway.