Research Papers:

Activation of TRKA receptor elicits mastocytosis in mice and is involved in the development of resistance to KIT-targeted therapy

Min Yang, Zengkai Pan, Kezhi Huang, Guntram Büsche, Friedrich Feuerhake, Anuhar Chaturvedi, Danian Nie, Michael Heuser, Felicitas Thol, Nils von Neuhoff, Arnold Ganser and Zhixiong Li _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:73871-73883. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.18027

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Min Yang1, Zengkai Pan1,*, Kezhi Huang1,2,*, Guntram Büsche3, Friedrich Feuerhake3, Anuhar Chaturvedi1, Danian Nie2, Michael Heuser1, Felicitas Thol1, Nils von Neuhoff4, Arnold Ganser1,# and Zhixiong Li1,#

1Department of Hematology, Hemostasis, Oncology, and Stem Cell Transplantation, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany

2Department of Hematology, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hospital, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China

3Institute of Pathology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany

4Department of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany

*These authors contributed equally to this work

#Co-senior authors

Correspondence to:

Zhixiong Li, email: [email protected]

Keywords: targeted therapy, TRK, KIT, resistance, mastocytosis

Received: February 23, 2017     Accepted: May 08, 2017     Published: May 19, 2017


The neurotrophins (NTs) play a key role in neuronal survival and maintenance. The TRK (tropomyosin-related kinase) tyrosine kinase receptors (TRKA, TRKB, TRKC) are high affinity receptors for NTs. There is increasing data demonstrating an important role of the TRK family in cancer initiation and progression. NTs have been known for many years to promote chemotaxis, maturation, and survival of mast cells. However, the role of NT signaling in the pathogenesis of mastocytosis is not well understood. In this study, we demonstrate that activation of TRKA by its ligand nerve growth factor (NGF) is potent to trigger a disease in mice with striking similarities to human systemic mastocytosis (SM). Moreover, activation of TRKA by NGF strongly rescues KIT inhibition-induced cell death of mast cell lines and primary mast cells from patients with SM, and this rescue effect can be efficiently blocked by entrectinib (a new pan TRK specific inhibitor). HMC-1 mast cell leukemia cells that are resistant to KIT inhibition induced by TRKA activation show reactivation of MAPK/ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) and strong upregulation of early growth response 3 (EGR3), suggesting an important role of MAPK-EGR3 axis in the development of resistance to KIT inhibition. Targeting both TRK and KIT significantly prolongs survival of mice xenotransplanted with HMC-1 cells compared with targeting KIT alone. Thus, these data strongly suggest that TRKA signaling can improve neoplastic mast cell fitness. This might explain at least in part why treatment with KIT inhibitors alone so far has been disappointing in most published clinical trials for mastocytosis. Our data suggest that targeting both KIT and TRKs might improve efficacy of molecular therapy in SM with KIT mutations.

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