Mutant B-RAF regulates a Rac-dependent cadherin switch in melanoma.

PMID 23208503


The ability of cells to invade into the dermis is a critical event in the development of cutaneous melanoma and ultimately an indicator of poor prognosis. However, the molecular events surrounding the acquisition of this invasive phenotype remain incompletely understood. Mutations in B-RAF are frequent in melanoma and are known to regulate the invasive phenotype. In this study, we sought to determine the molecular mechanisms controlling melanoma invasion. We found that mutant B-RAF signaling regulates a cadherin switch. In melanoma cells expressing mutant B-RAF we observed high levels of N-cadherin and low levels of E-cadherin. Depletion of mutant B-RAF, by small interfering RNA, caused a decrease in the levels of N-cadherin and an increase in the levels of E-cadherin. Mechanistically, we found that this cadherin switch required the activity of Rac1 and its GEF, Tiam1, both of which show suppressed activity in the presence of mutant B-RAF. Consistent with the work of others, we found that depletion of mutant B-RAF decreased the invasive capacity of the melanoma cells. However, simultaneous depletion of B-RAF and Rac or Tiam1 resulted in invasive capacity similar to that of control cells. Taken together, our results suggest that mutant B-RAF signaling downregulates Tiam1/Rac activity resulting in an increase in N-cadherin levels and a decrease in E-cadherin levels and ultimately enhanced invasion.