Targeting the oncogenic protein kinase Ciota signalling pathway for the treatment of cancer

Biochem Soc Trans. 2007 Nov;35(Pt 5):996-1000. doi: 10.1042/BST0350996.


PKC (protein kinase C) isoenzymes are key signalling components involved in the regulation of normal cell proliferation, differentiation, polarity and survival. The aberrant regulation of PKC isoenzymes has been implicated in the development of many human diseases including cancer [Fields and Gustafson (2003) Methods Mol. Biol. 233, 519-537]. To date, however, only one PKC isoenzyme, the aPKC [atypical PKCiota (protein kinase Ciota)], has been identified as a human oncogene [Regala, Weems, Jamieson, Khoor, Edell, Lohse and Fields (2005) Cancer Res. 65, 8905-8911]. PKCiota has also proven to be a useful prognostic marker and legitimate target for the development of novel pharmacological agents for the treatment of cancer. The PKCiota gene resides at chromosome 3q26 and is a frequent target of tumour-specific gene amplification in multiple forms of human cancer. PKCiota gene amplification in turn drives PKCiota overexpression in these cancers. Genetic disruption of PKCiota expression blocks multiple aspects of the transformed phenotype of human cancer cells including transformed growth in soft agar, invasion through Matrigel and growth of subcutaneous tumours in nude mice. Genetic dissection of oncogenic PKCiota signalling mechanisms demonstrates that PKCiota drives transformed growth by activating a PKCiota --> Rac1 --> PAK (p21-activated kinase) --> MEK [MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) 1,2/ERK (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase) kinase] 1,2 signalling pathway [Regala, Weems, Jamieson, Copland, Thompson and Fields (2005) J. Biol. Chem. 280, 31109-31115]. The transforming activity of PKCiota requires the N-terminal PB1 (Phox-Bem1) domain of PKCiota, which serves to couple PKCiota with downstream effector molecules. Hence, there exists a strong rationale for developing novel cancer therapeutics that target the PB1 domain of PKCiota and thereby disrupt its interactions with effector molecules. Using a novel high-throughput drug screen, we identified compounds that can disrupt PB1-PB1 domain interactions between PKCiota and the adaptor molecule Par6 [Stallings-Mann, Jamieson, Regala, Weems, Murray and Fields (2006) Cancer Res. 66, 1767-1774]. Our screen identified the gold compounds ATG (aurothioglucose) and ATM (aurothiomalate) as specific inhibitors of the PB1-PB1 domain interaction between PKCiota and Par6 that exhibit anti-tumour activity against NSCLC (non-small-cell lung cancer) both in vitro and in vivo. Structural analysis, site-directed mutagenesis and modelling indicate that ATM specifically targets the PB1 domain of PKCiota to mediate its anti-tumour activity [Erdogan, Lamark, Stallings-Mann, Lee, Pellechia, Thompson, Johansen and Fields (2006) J. Biol. Chem. 281, 28450-28459]. Taken together, our recent work demonstrates that PKCiota signalling is required for transformed growth of human tumours and is an attractive target for development of mechanism-based cancer therapies. ATM is currently in Phase I clinical trials for the treatment of NSCLC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Isoenzymes / chemistry
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Oncogenes*
  • Prognosis
  • Protein Kinase C / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein Kinase C / chemistry
  • Protein Kinase C / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Isoenzymes
  • Protein Kinase C
  • protein kinase C lambda