The receptor tyrosine kinase c-Kit, also known as the stem cell factor receptor, plays a key role in several developmental processes. Activating mutations in c-Kit lead to alteration of these cellular processes and have been implicated in many human cancers such as gastrointestinal stromal tumors, acute myeloid leukemia, testicular seminomas and mastocytosis. Regulation of the catalytic activity of several kinases is known to be governed by phosphorylation of tyrosine residues in the activation loop of the kinase domain. However, in the case of c-Kit phosphorylation of Tyr-823 has been demonstrated to be a late event that is not required for kinase activation. However, because phosphorylation of Tyr-823 is a ligand-activated event, we sought to investigate the functional consequences of Tyr-823 phosphorylation. By using a tyrosine-to-phenylalanine mutant of tyrosine 823, we investigated the impact of Tyr-823 on c-Kit signaling. We demonstrate here that Tyr-823 is crucial for cell survival and proliferation and that mutation of Tyr-823 to phenylalanine leads to decreased sustained phosphorylation and ubiquitination of c-Kit as compared with the wild-type receptor. Furthermore, the mutated receptor was, upon ligand-stimulation, quickly internalized and degraded. Phosphorylation of the E3 ubiquitin ligase Cbl was transient, followed by a substantial reduction in phosphorylation of downstream signaling molecules such as Akt, Erk, p38, Shc, and Gab2. Thus, we propose that activation loop tyrosine 823 is crucial for activation of both the MAPK and PI3K pathways and that its disruption leads to a destabilization of the c-Kit receptor and decreased survival of cells.
Keywords: Activation Loop; Cbl; Cell Death; Cell Proliferation; Growth Factors; MAP Kinases (MAPKs); Receptor Tyrosine Kinase; Ubiquitination; c-Kit.