Research Papers:

Inhibition of DUSP6 sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents via regulation of ERK signaling response genes

Nicole E. James, Lindsey Beffa, Matthew T. Oliver, Ashley D. Borgstadt, Jenna B. Emerson, Clinton O. Chichester, Naohiro Yano, Richard N. Freiman, Paul A. DiSilvestro and Jennifer R. Ribeiro

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Oncotarget. 2019; 10:3315-3327. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.26915

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Nicole E. James1,3, Lindsey Beffa1, Matthew T. Oliver1, Ashley D. Borgstadt1, Jenna B. Emerson1, Clinton O. Chichester3, Naohiro Yano2, Richard N. Freiman4, Paul A. DiSilvestro1 and Jennifer R. Ribeiro1

1 Women and Infants Hospital, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Program in Women’s Oncology, Providence, RI, USA

2 Department of Surgery, Roger Williams Medical Center, Providence, RI, USA

3 Department of Pharmacy, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI, USA

4 Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and Biochemistry, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA

Correspondence to:

Jennifer R. Ribeiro,email: [email protected]

Keywords: DUSP6; HE4; ovarian cancer; chemoresistance; ERK signaling

Received: November 07, 2018     Accepted: April 14, 2019     Published: May 21, 2019


Dual specificity phosphatase 6 (DUSP6) is a protein phosphatase that deactivates extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK). Since the ovarian cancer biomarker human epididymis protein 4 (HE4) interacts with the ERK pathway, we sought to determine the relationship between DUSP6 and HE4 and elucidate DUSP6’s role in epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). Viability assays revealed a significant decrease in cell viability with pharmacological inhibition of DUSP6 using (E/Z)-BCI hydrochloride in ovarian cancer cells treated with carboplatin or paclitaxel, compared to treatment with either agent alone. Quantitative PCR was used to evaluate levels of ERK pathway response genes to BCI in combination with recombinant HE4 (rHE4), carboplatin, and paclitaxel. Expression of EGR1, a promoter of apoptosis, was higher in cells co-treated with BCI and paclitaxel or carboplatin than in cells treated with chemotherapeutic agents alone, while expression of the proto-oncogene c-JUN was decreased with co-treatment. The effect of BCI on the expression of these two genes opposed that of rHE4. Pathway focused quantitative PCR also revealed suppression of ERBB3 in cells co-treated with BCI plus carboplatin or paclitaxel. Finally, expression levels of DUSP6 in EOC tissue were evaluated by immunohistochemistry, revealing significantly increased levels of DUSP6 in serous EOC tissue compared to adjacent normal tissue. A positive correlation between HE4 and DUSP6 levels was determined by Spearman Rank correlation. In conclusion, DUSP6 inhibition sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents and alters gene expression of ERK response genes, suggesting that DUSP6 could plausibly function as a novel therapeutic target to reduce chemoresistance in EOC.

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