AKT-dependent NOTCH3 activation drives tumor progression in a model of mesenchymal colorectal cancer

J Exp Med. 2020 Oct 5;217(10):e20191515. doi: 10.1084/jem.20191515.


Recently, a transcriptome-based consensus molecular subtype (CMS) classification of colorectal cancer (CRC) has been established, which may ultimately help to individualize CRC therapy. However, the lack of animal models that faithfully recapitulate the different molecular subtypes impedes adequate preclinical testing of stratified therapeutic concepts. Here, we demonstrate that constitutive AKT activation in intestinal epithelial cells markedly enhances tumor invasion and metastasis in Trp53ΔIEC mice (Trp53ΔIECAktE17K) upon challenge with the carcinogen azoxymethane. Gene-expression profiling indicates that Trp53ΔIECAktE17K tumors resemble the human mesenchymal colorectal cancer subtype (CMS4), which is characterized by the poorest survival rate among the four CMSs. Trp53ΔIECAktE17K tumor cells are characterized by Notch3 up-regulation, and treatment of Trp53ΔIECAktE17K mice with a NOTCH3-inhibiting antibody reduces invasion and metastasis. In CRC patients, NOTCH3 expression correlates positively with tumor grading and the presence of lymph node as well as distant metastases and is specifically up-regulated in CMS4 tumors. Therefore, we suggest NOTCH3 as a putative target for advanced CMS4 CRC patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism*
  • Receptor, Notch3 / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcriptome
  • Up-Regulation


  • Notch3 protein, mouse
  • Receptor, Notch3
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt