The First Rehabilitation Hospital of Shanghai, Shanghai Key Laboratory of Signaling and Diseases Research, School of Life Science and Technology, Tongji University, 1239 Siping Road, Shanghai, 200092, China. [Email]
The c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway plays essential roles in regulating a variety of physiological processes including cell migration and invasion. To identify critical factors that regulate JNK-dependent cell migration, we carried out a genetic screen in Drosophila based on the loss-of-cell polarity-triggered cell migration in the wing epithelia, and identified MKK3 licorne (lic) as an essential regulator of JNK-mediated cell migration and invasion. We found that loss of lic suppressed ptc > scrib-IR or ptc > Egr triggered cell migration in the wing epithelia, and Rasv12/lgl-/- induced tumor invasion in the eye discs. In addition, ectopic expression of Lic is sufficient to induce JNK-mediated but p38-independent cell migration, and cooperate with oncogenic Ras to promote tumor invasion. Consistently, Lic is able to activate JNK signaling by phosphorylating JNK, which up-regulates the matrix metalloproteinase MMP1 and integrin, characteristics of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Moreover, lic is required for physiological JNK-mediate cell migration in thorax development. Finally, expression of human MKK3 in Drosophila is able to initiate JNK-mediated cell migration, cooperates with oncogenic Ras to trigger tumor invasion, and rescue loss-of-lic induced thorax closure defect. As previous studies suggest that MKK3 specifically phosphorylates and activates p38MAPK, our data provide the first in vivo evidence that MKK3 regulates JNK-dependent cell migration and invasion, a process evolutionarily conserved from flies to human.