c-Abl and Arg induce cathepsin-mediated lysosomal degradation of the NM23-H1 metastasis suppressor in invasive cancer

Oncogene. 2014 Sep 4;33(36):4508-4520. doi: 10.1038/onc.2013.399. Epub 2013 Oct 7.


Metastasis suppressors comprise a growing class of genes whose downregulation triggers metastatic progression. In contrast to tumor suppressors, metastasis suppressors are rarely mutated or deleted, and little is known regarding the mechanisms by which their expression is downregulated. Here, we demonstrate that the metastasis suppressor, NM23-H1, is degraded by lysosomal cysteine cathepsins (L,B), which directly cleave NM23-H1. In addition, activation of c-Abl and Arg oncoproteins induces NM23-H1 degradation in invasive cancer cells by increasing cysteine cathepsin transcription and activation. Moreover, c-Abl activates cathepsins by promoting endosome maturation, which facilitates trafficking of NM23-H1 to the lysosome where it is degraded. Importantly, the invasion- and metastasis-promoting activity of c-Abl/Arg is dependent on their ability to induce NM23-H1 degradation, and the pathway is clinically relevant as c-Abl/Arg activity and NM23-H1 expression are inversely correlated in primary breast cancers and melanomas. Thus, we demonstrate a novel mechanism by which cathepsin expression is upregulated in cancer cells (via Abl kinases). We also identify a novel role for intracellular cathepsins in invasion and metastasis (degradation of a metastasis suppressor). Finally, we identify novel crosstalk between oncogenic and metastasis suppressor pathways, thereby providing mechanistic insight into the process of NM23-H1 loss, which may pave the way for new strategies to restore NM23-H1 expression and block metastatic progression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Cathepsins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Humans
  • Lysosomes / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • NM23 Nucleoside Diphosphate Kinases / genetics*
  • NM23 Nucleoside Diphosphate Kinases / metabolism*
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / genetics
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-abl / metabolism*
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology


  • 4-methyl-N-(3-(4-methylimidazol-1-yl)-5-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl)-3-((4-pyridin-3-ylpyrimidin-2-yl)amino)benzamide
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • NM23 Nucleoside Diphosphate Kinases
  • Pyrimidines
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-abl
  • Cathepsins