Resistance of tumor cells to cytolytic T lymphocytes involves Rho-GTPases and focal adhesion kinase activation

J Biol Chem. 2008 Nov 14;283(46):31665-72. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M800078200. Epub 2008 Sep 8.


Tumor cells evade adaptive immunity by a variety of mechanisms, including selection of variants that are resistant to specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) pressure. Recently, we have reported that the reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton can be used by tumor cells as a strategy to promote their resistance to CTL-mediated lysis. In this study, we further examined the functional features of a CTL-resistant tumor variant and investigated the relationship between cytoskeleton alteration, the acquisition of tumor resistance to CTL-induced cell death, Rho-GTPases, and focal adhesion kinase (FAK) pathways. Our data indicate that although the resistant cells do not display an increased migratory potential, an alteration of adhesion to the extracellular matrix was observed. When Rho-GTPases were activated in cells by the bacterial CNF1 (cytotoxic necrotizing factor 1), striking changes in the cell morphology, including actin cytoskeleton, focal adhesions, and membrane extensions, were observed. More importantly, such activation also resulted in a significant attenuation of resistance to CTL-induced cell death. Furthermore, we demonstrate that FAK signaling pathways were constitutively defective in the resistant cells. Silencing of FAK in the sensitive target cells resulted in the inhibition of immune synapse formation with specific CTLs and their subsequent lysis. Expression of the FAK mutant (Y397F) resulted in an inhibition of IGR-Heu cell adhesion and of their susceptibility to specific lysis. These results suggest that FAK activation plays a role in the control of tumor cell susceptibility to CTL-mediated lysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Shape
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Macrophages / enzymology
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Protein Binding
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / enzymology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins