Research Papers:

p-21 activated kinase 4 promotes proliferation and survival of pancreatic cancer cells through AKT- and ERK-dependent activation of NF-κB pathway

Nikhil Tyagi, Arun Bhardwaj, Ajay P. Singh, Steven McClellan, James E. Carter and Seema Singh _

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Oncotarget. 2014; 5:8778-8789. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.2398

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Nikhil Tyagi1, Arun Bhardwaj1, Ajay P. Singh1,2, Steven McClellan1, James E. Carter3 and Seema Singh1

1 Department of Oncologic Sciences, Mitchell Cancer Institute, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama, USA

2 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of Medicine, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama, USA

3 Department of Pathology, College of Medicine, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama, USA


Seema Singh, email:

Keywords: PAK4, pancreatic cancer, cell proliferation, apoptosis, Akt, ERK, NF-κB

Received: July 23, 2014 Accepted: August 26, 2014 Published: August 27, 2014


Identification of novel molecular targets and understanding the mechanisms underlying the aggressive nature of pancreatic cancer (PC) remain prime focus areas of research. Here, we investigated the expression and pathobiological significance of p21-activated kinase 4 (PAK4), a gene that was earlier shown to be amplified in a sub-set of PC. Our data demonstrate PAK4 overexpression in PC tissues and cell lines with little or no expression in the normal pancreas. PAK4 silencing in two PC cell lines, MiaPaCa and T3M4, by RNA interference causes suppression of growth and clonogenic ability due to decreased cell cycle progression and apoptosis-resistance. PAK4-silenced PC cells exhibit altered expression of proliferation- and survival-associated proteins. Moreover, we observe decreased nuclear accumulation and transcriptional activity of NF-κB in PAK4-silenced PC cells associated with stabilization of its inhibitory protein, IκBα. Transfection of PAK4-silenced PC cells with constitutively-active mutant of IKKβ, an upstream kinase of IκBα, leads to restoration of NF-κB activity and PC cell growth. Furthermore, we show that PAK4-induced NF-κB activity is mediated through activation and concerted action of ERK and Akt kinases. Together, these findings suggest that PAK4 is a regulator of NF-κB pathway in PC cells and can serve as a novel target for therapy.

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