p-21 activated kinase 4 promotes proliferation and survival of pancreatic cancer cells through AKT- and ERK-dependent activation of NF-κB pathway

Oncotarget. 2014 Sep 30;5(18):8778-89. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.2398.


Identification of novel molecular targets and understanding the mechanisms underlying the aggressive nature of pancreatic cancer (PC) remain prime focus areas of research. Here, we investigated the expression and pathobiological significance of p21-activated kinase 4 (PAK4), a gene that was earlier shown to be amplified in a sub-set of PC. Our data demonstrate PAK4 overexpression in PC tissues and cell lines with little or no expression in the normal pancreas. PAK4 silencing in two PC cell lines, MiaPaCa and T3M4, by RNA interference causes suppression of growth and clonogenic ability due to decreased cell cycle progression and apoptosis-resistance. PAK4-silenced PC cells exhibit altered expression of proliferation- and survival-associated proteins. Moreover, we observe decreased nuclear accumulation and transcriptional activity of NF-κB in PAK4-silenced PC cells associated with stabilization of its inhibitory protein, IκBα. Transfection of PAK4-silenced PC cells with constitutively-active mutant of IKKβ, an upstream kinase of IκBα, leads to restoration of NF-κB activity and PC cell growth. Furthermore, we show that PAK4-induced NF-κB activity is mediated through activation and concerted action of ERK and Akt kinases. Together, these findings suggest that PAK4 is a regulator of NF-κB pathway in PC cells and can serve as a novel target for therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation* / drug effects
  • Cell Survival
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism*
  • RNA Interference
  • Signal Transduction
  • Time Factors
  • Transfection
  • p21-Activated Kinases / genetics
  • p21-Activated Kinases / metabolism*


  • NF-kappa B
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • PAK4 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • p21-Activated Kinases
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases