A positive feedback loop between Gli1 and tyrosine kinase Hck amplifies shh signaling activities in medulloblastoma.

PMID 26619401


Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling is critical during normal development, and the abnormal activation of the Shh pathway is involved in many human cancers. As a target gene of the Shh pathway and as a transcription activator downstream of Shh signaling, Gli1 autoregulates and increases Shh signaling output. Gli1 is one of the key oncogenic factors in Shh-induced tumors such as medulloblastoma. Gli1 is posttranslationally modified, but the nature of the active form of Gli1 was unclear. Here we identified a Src family kinase Hck as a novel activator of Gli1. In Shh-responsive NIH3T3 cells, Hck interacts with Gli1 and phosphorylates multiple tyrosine residues in Gli1. Gli1-mediated target gene activation was significantly enhanced by Hck with both kinase activity-dependent and -independent mechanisms. We provide evidence showing that Hck disrupts the interaction between Gli1 and its inhibitor Sufu. In both NIH3T3 cells and cerebellum granule neuron precursors, the Hck gene is also a direct target of Gli1. Therefore, Gli1 and Hck form a positive feedback loop that amplifies Shh signaling transcription outcomes. In Shh-induced medulloblastoma, Hck is highly expressed and Gli1 is tyrosine phosphorylated, which may enhance the tumorigenic effects of the Gli1 oncogene. RNAi-mediated inhibition of Hck expression significantly repressed medulloblastoma cell growth. In summary, a novel positive feedback loop contributes to maximal Gli1 oncogenic activities in Shh-induced tumors such as medulloblastoma.