Suppression of anoikis by the neurotrophic receptor TrkB in human ovarian cancer

Cancer Sci. 2008 Mar;99(3):543-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1349-7006.2007.00722.x. Epub 2008 Jan 14.


TrkB is a neurotrophic tyrosine kinase receptor (Trk). To investigate its role in anoikis suppression in human ovarian cancer, we used reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and real-time polymerase chain reaction, immunohistochemistry, and western blotting to compare the expression levels of TrkB and its ligand brain-derived neurotrophic factor between (i) 20 epithelial ovarian cancers, their multicellular spheroids in ascites or great omentum metastatic lesions, and eight borderline or benign ovarian tumors, as well as four normal ovarian tissues; and (ii) three ovarian cancer cell lines cultured under different conditions: monolayer adhesive culture (adhesive cells), anchorage-independent culture (cell spheroids), and trypsinized cell spheroids placed in monolayer adhesive dishes (cell spheroids replaced). TrkB and brain-derived neurotrophic factor were overexpressed in epithelial ovarian cancers, and full-length TrkB was more often overexpressed in high-grade carcinomas and multicellular spheroids in ascites. Expression of TrkB mRNA was higher in OVCAR-3 cell spheroids than in adhesive cells. The expression of full-length TrkB protein was highest in OVCAR-3 cell spheroids, but its precursor was expressed highly in OVCAR-3 cells under all three culture conditions. The relationship between TrkB overexpression and phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase (PI3K)-AKT pathway activation in OVCAR-3 cells was studied by western blotting and RNA interference. The PI3K-AKT pathway was highly activated in anoikis-survived cells and was inhibited when TrkB was silenced by small interfering RNA. Finally, the chemosensitivity and invasiveness of OVCAR-3 cells were examined by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium, fluorescence-activated cell sorting, Matrigel invasion assay, and in vivo studies. Adhesive cells showed higher chemosensitivity and lower invasion ability than anoikis-survived cells. Our study suggests that TrkB might mediate anoikis suppression by activating the PI3K-AKT pathway in ovarian cancer cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anoikis / physiology*
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Gene Silencing
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Oncogene Protein v-akt / metabolism
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Paclitaxel / therapeutic use
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Receptor, trkB / genetics
  • Receptor, trkB / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • bcl-Associated Death Protein / metabolism
  • bcl-X Protein / metabolism


  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • bcl-Associated Death Protein
  • bcl-X Protein
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Receptor, trkB
  • Oncogene Protein v-akt
  • Paclitaxel