Trop-2 is a transmembrane signal transducer that is overexpressed in most human cancers, and drives malignant progression. To gain knowledge on the higher-order molecular mechanisms that drive Trop-2 signaling, we applied next-generation sequencing, proteomics, and high-resolution microscopy to models and primary cases of human colorectal cancer (CRC). We had previously shown that Trop-2 induces a Ca2+ signal. We reveal here that Trop-2 binds the cell membrane Na+/K+-ATPase, and that clustering of Trop-2 induces an intracellular Ca2+ rise followed by membrane translocation of PKCα, which in turn phosphorylates the Trop-2 cytoplasmic tail. This feed-forward signaling is promoted by the binding of Trop-2 to the PKCα membrane-anchor CD9. CRISPR-based inactivation of CD9 in CRC cells shows that CD9 is required by Trop-2 for recruiting PKCα and cofilin-1 to the cell membrane. This induces malignant progression through proteolytic cleavage of E-cadherin, remodeling of the β-actin cytoskeleton, and activation of Akt and ERK. The interaction between Trop-2 and CD9 was validated in vivo in murine models of CRC growth and invasion. Overexpression of the components of this Trop-2-driven super-complex significantly worsened disease-free and overall survival of CRC patients, supporting a pivotal relevance in CRC malignant progression. Our findings demonstrate a previously unsuspected layer of cancer growth regulation, which is dormant in normal tissues, and is activated by Trop-2 in cancer cells.
© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.