LKB1 is a serine/threonine kinase and a commonly mutated gene in lung adenocarcinoma. The majority of LKB1 mutations are truncations that disrupt its kinase activity and remove its C-terminal domain (CTD). Because LKB1 inactivation drives cancer metastasis in mice and leads to aberrant cell invasion in vitro, we sought to determine how compromised LKB1 function affects lung cancer cell polarity and invasion. Using three-dimensional models, we show that LKB1 kinase activity is essential for focal adhesion kinase-mediated cell adhesion and subsequent collagen remodeling but not cell polarity. Instead, cell polarity is overseen by the kinase-independent function of its CTD and more specifically its farnesylation. This occurs through a mesenchymal-amoeboid morphological switch that signals through the Rho-GTPase RhoA. These data suggest that a combination of kinase-dependent and -independent defects by LKB1 inactivation creates a uniquely invasive cell with aberrant polarity and adhesion signaling that drives invasion into the microenvironment.
© 2016 Konen, Wilkinson, et al. This article is distributed by The American Society for Cell Biology under license from the author(s). Two months after publication it is available to the public under an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0).