Cyclin D1 is a mediator of gastrointestinal stromal tumor KIT-independence.


Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 02115, USA. [Email]


Oncogenic KIT or PDGFRA tyrosine kinase mutations are compelling therapeutic targets in most gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs), and the KIT inhibitor, imatinib, is therefore standard of care for patients with metastatic GIST. However, some GISTs lose expression of KIT oncoproteins, and therefore become KIT-independent and are consequently resistant to KIT-inhibitor drugs. We identified distinctive biologic features in KIT-independent, imatinib-resistant GISTs as a step towards identifying drug targets in these poorly understood tumors. We developed isogenic GIST lines in which the parental forms were KIT oncoprotein-dependent, whereas sublines had loss of KIT oncoprotein expression, accompanied by markedly downregulated expression of the GIST biomarker, protein kinase C-theta (PRKCQ). Biologic mechanisms unique to KIT-independent GISTs were identified by transcriptome sequencing, qRT-PCR, immunoblotting, protein interaction studies, knockdown and expression assays, and dual-luciferase assays. Transcriptome sequencing showed that cyclin D1 expression was extremely low in two of three parental KIT-dependent GIST lines, whereas cyclin D1 expression was high in each of the KIT-independent GIST sublines. Cyclin D1 inhibition in KIT-independent GISTs had anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects, associated with Rb activation and p27 upregulation. PRKCQ, but not KIT, was a negative regulator of cyclin D1 expression, whereas JUN and Hippo pathway effectors YAP and TAZ were positive regulators of cyclin D1 expression. PRKCQ, JUN, and the Hippo pathway coordinately regulate GIST cyclin D1 expression. These findings highlight the roles of PRKCQ, JUN, Hippo, and cyclin D1 as oncogenic mediators in GISTs that have converted, during TKI-therapy, to a KIT-independent state. Inhibitors of these pathways could be effective therapeutically for these now untreatable tumors.

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