A Phosphoproteomic Comparison of B-RAFV600E and MKK1/2 Inhibitors in Melanoma Cells

Mol Cell Proteomics. 2015 Jun;14(6):1599-615. doi: 10.1074/mcp.M114.047233. Epub 2015 Apr 7.


Inhibitors of oncogenic B-RAF(V600E) and MKK1/2 have yielded remarkable responses in B-RAF(V600E)-positive melanoma patients. However, the efficacy of these inhibitors is limited by the inevitable onset of resistance. Despite the fact that these inhibitors target the same pathway, combination treatment with B-RAF(V600E) and MKK1/2 inhibitors has been shown to improve both response rates and progression-free survival in B-RAF(V600E) melanoma patients. To provide insight into the molecular nature of the combinatorial response, we used quantitative mass spectrometry to characterize the inhibitor-dependent phosphoproteome of human melanoma cells treated with the B-RAF(V600E) inhibitor PLX4032 (vemurafenib) or the MKK1/2 inhibitor AZD6244 (selumetinib). In three replicate experiments, we quantified changes at a total of 23,986 phosphosites on 4784 proteins. This included 1317 phosphosites that reproducibly decreased in response to at least one inhibitor. Phosphosites that responded to both inhibitors grouped into networks that included the nuclear pore complex, growth factor signaling, and transcriptional regulators. Although the majority of phosphosites were responsive to both inhibitors, we identified 16 sites that decreased only in response to PLX4032, suggesting rare instances where oncogenic B-RAF signaling occurs in an MKK1/2-independent manner. Only two phosphosites were identified that appeared to be uniquely responsive to AZD6244. When cells were treated with the combination of AZD6244 and PLX4032 at subsaturating concentrations (30 nm), responses at nearly all phosphosites were additive. We conclude that AZD6244 does not substantially widen the range of phosphosites inhibited by PLX4032 and that the benefit of the drug combination is best explained by their additive effects on suppressing ERK1/2 signaling. Comparison of our results to another recent ERK1/2 phosphoproteomics study revealed a surprising degree of variability in the sensitivity of phosphosites to MKK1/2 inhibitors in human cell lines, revealing unexpected cell specificity in the molecular responses to pathway activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Benzimidazoles / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Indoles / pharmacology
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 1 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 2 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Melanoma
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Proteomics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Sulfonamides / pharmacology
  • Vemurafenib


  • AZD 6244
  • Benzimidazoles
  • Indoles
  • Phosphoproteins
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Sulfonamides
  • Vemurafenib
  • MAP2K2 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 1
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 2
  • MAP2K1 protein, human