Receptor tyrosine kinases of the Eph family play multiple roles in the physiological regulation of tissue homeostasis and in the pathogenesis of various diseases, including cancer. The EphA2 receptor is highly expressed in most cancer cell types, where it has disparate activities that are not well understood. It has been reported that interplay of EphA2 with oncogenic signaling pathways promotes cancer cell malignancy independently of ephrin ligand binding and receptor kinase activity. In contrast, stimulation of EphA2 signaling with ephrin-A ligands can suppress malignancy by inhibiting the Ras-MAP kinase pathway, integrin-mediated adhesion, and epithelial to mesenchymal transition. Here we show that ephrin-A1 ligand-dependent activation of EphA2 decreases the growth of PC3 prostate cancer cells and profoundly inhibits the Akt-mTORC1 pathway, which is hyperactivated due to loss of the PTEN tumor suppressor. Our results do not implicate changes in the activity of Akt upstream regulators (such as Ras family GTPases, PI3 kinase, integrins, or the Ship2 lipid phosphatase) in the observed loss of Akt T308 and S473 phosphorylation downstream of EphA2. Indeed, EphA2 can inhibit Akt phosphorylation induced by oncogenic mutations of not only PTEN but also PI3 kinase. Furthermore, it can decrease the hyperphosphorylation induced by constitutive membrane-targeting of Akt. Our data suggest a novel signaling mechanism whereby EphA2 inactivates the Akt-mTORC1 oncogenic pathway through Akt dephosphorylation mediated by a serine/threonine phosphatase. Ephrin-A1-induced Akt dephosphorylation was observed not only in PC3 prostate cancer cells but also in other cancer cell types. Thus, activation of EphA2 signaling represents a possible new avenue for anti-cancer therapies that exploit the remarkable ability of this receptor to counteract multiple oncogenic signaling pathways.
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