c-Jun N-terminal kinase 2 (JNK2) isoforms are transcribed from the jnk2 gene and are highly homologous with jnk1 and jnk3 transcriptional products. JNK proteins mediate cell proliferation, stress response, and migration when activated by a variety of stimuli, including receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs), but their ability to influence tumor metastasis is ill defined. To evaluate JNK2 in this manner, we used the highly metastatic 4T1.2 mammary tumor cells. Short hairpin RNA expression directed toward JNK2 (shJNK2) decreases tumor cell invasion. In vivo, shJNK2 expression slows tumor growth and inhibits lung metastasis. Subsequent analysis of tumors showed that shJNK2 tumors express lower GRB2-associated binding protein 2 (GAB2). In vitro, knockdown of JNK2 or GAB2 inhibits Akt activation by hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), insulin, and heregulin-1, while phosphorylation of ERK is constitutive and Src dependent. Knockdown of GAB2 phenocopies knockdown of JNK2 in vivo by reducing tumor growth and metastasis, supporting that JNK2 mediates tumor progression by regulating GAB2. The influence of jnk2 in the host or microenvironment was also evaluated using syngeneic jnk2-/- and jnk2+/+ mice. Jnk2-/- mice experience longer survival and less bone and lung metastasis compared to jnk2+/+ mice after intracardiac injection of 4T1.2 cells. GAB2 has previously been shown to mediate osteoclast differentiation, and osteoclasts are critical mediators of tumor-related osteolysis. Thus, studies focusing on the role of JNK2 on osteoclast differentiation were undertaken. ShJNK2 expression impairs osteoclast differentiation, independently of GAB2. Further, shJNK2 4T1.2 cells express less RANKL, a stimulant of osteoclast differentiation. Together, our data support that JNK2 conveys Src/phosphotidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) signals important for tumor growth and metastasis by enhancing GAB2 expression. In osteoclast progenitor cells, JNK2 promotes differentiation, which may contribute to the progression of bone metastasis. These studies identify JNK2 as a tumor and host target to inhibit breast cancer growth and metastasis.
Keywords: GAB2; JNK2; metastasis; osteoclast; receptor tyrosine kinases.