The iron-regulated metastasis suppressor NDRG1 targets NEDD4L, PTEN, and SMAD4 and inhibits the PI3K and Ras signaling pathways

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2013 Mar 10;18(8):874-87. doi: 10.1089/ars.2011.4273. Epub 2012 May 8.


Aims: The metastasis suppressor gene, N-myc downstream regulated gene-1 (NDRG1), is negatively correlated with tumor progression in multiple neoplasms, including pancreatic cancer. Moreover, NDRG1 is an iron-regulated gene that is markedly upregulated by cellular iron-depletion using novel antitumor agents such as the chelator, di-2-pyridylketone 4,4-dimethyl-3-thiosemicarbazone (Dp44mT), in pancreatic cancer cells. However, the exact function(s) of NDRG1 remain to be established and are important to elucidate.

Results: In the current study, using gene-array analysis along with NDRG1 overexpression and silencing, we identified the molecular targets of NDRG1 in three pancreatic cancer cell lines. We demonstrate that NDRG1 upregulates neural precursor cell expressed developmentally downregulated 4-like (NEDD4L) and GLI-similar-3 (GLIS3). Further studies examining the downstream effects of NEDD4L led to the discovery that NDRG1 affects the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) pathway, leading to the upregulation of two key tumor suppressor proteins, namely phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN) and mothers against decapentaplegic homolog-4 (SMAD4). Moreover, NDRG1 inhibited the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and Ras oncogenic pathways.

Innovation: This study provides significant insights into the mechanisms underlying the antitumor activity of NDRG1. For the first time, a role for NDRG1 is established in regulating the key signaling pathways involved in oncogenesis (TGF-β, PI3K, and Ras pathways).

Conclusion: The identified target genes of NDRG1 and their effect on the TGF-β signaling pathway reveal its molecular function in pancreatic cancer and a novel therapeutic avenue.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport / genetics
  • Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Nedd4 Ubiquitin Protein Ligases
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / genetics
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / metabolism*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Smad4 Protein / genetics
  • Smad4 Protein / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / genetics
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / metabolism*


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • N-myc downstream-regulated gene 1 protein
  • Smad4 Protein
  • Iron
  • Nedd4 Ubiquitin Protein Ligases
  • Nedd4L protein, human
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)