Cell death & disease

EGFR/MEK/ERK/CDK5-dependent integrin-independent FAK phosphorylated on serine 732 contributes to microtubule depolymerization and mitosis in tumor cells.

PMID 24091658


FAK is a non-receptor tyrosine kinase contributing to migration and proliferation downstream of integrin and/or growth factor receptor signaling of normal and malignant cells. In addition to well-characterized tyrosine phosphorylations, FAK is phosphorylated on several serines, whose role is not yet clarified. We observed that phosphorylated FAK on serine 732 (P-FAKSer732) is present at variable levels in vitro, in several melanoma, ovarian and thyroid tumor cell lines and in vivo, in tumor cells present in fresh ovarian cancer ascites. In vitro P-FAKSer732 was barely detectable during interphase while its levels strongly increased in mitotic cells upon activation of the EGFR/MEK/ERK axis in an integrin-independent manner. P-FAKSer732 presence was crucial for the maintenance of the proliferation rate and its levels were inversely related to the levels of acetylated α-tubulin. P-FAKSer732 localized at the microtubules (MTs) of the spindle, biochemically associated with MTs and contributed to MT depolymerization. The lack of the phosphorylation on Ser732 as well as the inhibition of CDK5 activity by roscovitine impaired mitotic spindle assembly and correct chromosome alignment during mitosis. We also identified, for the first time, that the EGF-dependent EGFR activation led to increased P-FAKSer732 and polymerized MTs. Our data shed light on the multifunctional roles of FAK in neoplastic cells, being involved not only in integrin-dependent migratory signaling but also in integrin-independent MT dynamics and mitosis control. These findings provide a new potential target for inhibiting the growth of tumor cells in which the EGFR/MEK/ERK/CDK5 pathway is active.