Caspase 8 and Integrins in Tumor Progression During the previous funding period, we demonstrated that caspase 8 association with unligated integrins in vivo promoted apoptosis, and that down-regulation of caspase 8 or integrins in neuroblastoma promoted tumor metastasis. Confirming the roll of apoptosis in these studies, we made the paradoxical observation that, among apoptosis-resistant cells, the expression of caspase 8 significantly enhanced integrin-mediated migration in vitro and metastasis in vivo. The overall goal of this proposal is therefore to understand how caspase 8 apoptotic vs nonapoptotic function is regulated. As an initiator caspase, caspase 8 triggers apoptosis downstream of death receptors, toll-like receptors and integrins. Its expression is frequently lost among aggressive neuroblastoma and other neuroendocrine tumors. This has prompted clinical strategies seeking to restore or amplify its expression. However, caspase 8 is not sufficient for apoptosis, but requires a compliant downstream caspase cascade. Among apoptosis-compromised cells, we provide evidence that caspase 8 expression actually functions to enhance tumor metastasis. This surprising result warrants reconsideration of the concept that simple upregulation of caspase 8 is universally beneficial;rather, it may exacerbate disease progression. While nonapoptotic functions of caspase 8 within the immune and vascular compartments are known, the mechanisms committing caspase 8 to these functions are not. Here, we provide preliminary results showing that enhanced cell migration occurs concurrent with caspase 8 tyrosine phosphorylation and localization in focal adhesion contacts following integrin ligation.
AIM 1 of this proposal will characterize the specific caspase 8 tyrosine residues phosphorylated during adhesion, and identify those critical for migration.
AIM 2 will evaluate which tyrosine residues influence caspase 8 catalytic and proapoptotic activities, including protein-protein interactions. Finally, AIM 3 will test the impact of these regulatory tyrosine residues on disease progression in vivo. Together, the results of these studies will reveal molecular mechanisms of caspase 8 regulation important for the development of anti-metastatic therapies.

Public Health Relevance

The protein caspase 8 is well known to be involved in programmed cell death, and its expression is suppressed among aggressive neuroendocrine tumors. However, caspase 8 can also promote cell migration, and we show that it actually enhances the spread of death-resisting cells, which may explain why it is frequently upregulated in carcinoma. This proposal seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms that control caspase 8 switching between these two roles.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Research Project (R01)
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Tumor Microenvironment Study Section (TME)
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Jhappan, Chamelli
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University of California San Diego
Schools of Medicine
La Jolla
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