Research Papers:

The MAPK pathway as an apoptosis enhancer in melanoma

Johannes M. Haydn, Anita Hufnagel, Johannes Grimm, Katja Maurus, Manfred Schartl and Svenja Meierjohann _

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Oncotarget. 2014; 5:5040-5053. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.2079

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Johannes M. Haydn1, Anita Hufnagel1, Johannes Grimm1, Katja Maurus1, Manfred Schartl1,2 and Svenja Meierjohann1,2

1 Department of Physiological Chemistry, Biocenter, University of Wurzburg, Wurzburg, Germany

2 Comprehensive Cancer Center Mainfranken, University Hospital Wurzburg, Germany


Svenja Meierjohann, email:

Keywords: Crosstalk, chemotherapy resistance, RAS, PI3K, melanoma

Received: March 18, 2014 Accepted: June 6, 2014 Published: June 8, 2014


Inhibition of RAF/MEK/ERK signaling is beneficial for many patients with BRAFV600E–mutated melanoma. However, primary and secondary resistances restrict long-lasting therapy success. Combination therapies are therefore urgently needed. Here, we evaluate the cellular effect of combining a MEK inhibitor with a genotoxic apoptosis inducer. Strikingly, we observed that an activated MAPK pathway promotes in several melanoma cell lines the pro-apoptotic response to genotoxic stress, and MEK inhibition reduces intrinsic apoptosis. This goes along with MEK inhibitor induced increased RAS and P-AKT levels. The protective effect of the MEK inhibitor depends on PI3K signaling, which prevents the induction of pro-apoptotic PUMA that mediates apoptosis after DNA damage. We could show that the MEK inhibitor dependent feedback loop is enabled by several factors, including EGF receptor and members of the SPRED family. The simultaneous knockdown of SPRED1 and SPRED2 mimicked the effects of MEK inhibitor such as PUMA repression and protection from apoptosis. Our data demonstrate that MEK inhibition of BRAFV600E-positive melanoma cells can protect from genotoxic stress, thereby achieving the opposite of the intended anti-tumorigenic effect of the combination of MEK inhibitor with inducers of intrinsic apoptosis.

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