Chromosomal rearrangements involving receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK) are a clinically relevant oncogenic mechanism in human cancers. These chimeric oncoproteins often contain the C-terminal kinase domain of the RTK joined in cis to various N-terminal, nonkinase fusion partners. The functional role of the N-terminal fusion partner in RTK fusion oncoproteins is poorly understood. Here, we show that distinct N-terminal fusion partners drive differential subcellular localization, which imparts distinct cell signaling and oncogenic properties of different, clinically relevant ROS1 RTK fusion oncoproteins. SDC4-ROS1 and SLC34A2-ROS1 fusion oncoproteins resided on endosomes and activated the MAPK pathway. CD74-ROS1 variants that localized instead to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) showed compromised activation of MAPK. Forced relocalization of CD74-ROS1 from the ER to endosomes restored MAPK signaling. ROS1 fusion oncoproteins that better activate MAPK formed more aggressive tumors. Thus, differential subcellular localization controlled by the N-terminal fusion partner regulates the oncogenic mechanisms and output of certain RTK fusion oncoproteins. SIGNIFICANCE: ROS1 fusion oncoproteins exhibit differential activation of MAPK signaling according to subcellular localization, with ROS1 fusions localized to endosomes, the strongest activators of MAPK signaling.
©2018 American Association for Cancer Research.