Modulation of protein S and growth arrest specific 6 protein signaling inhibits pancreatic cancer cell survival and proliferation

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Oncology Reports


Thrombotic complications and hypercoagulopathies are commonly associated with the progression of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Although the mechanistic link between the two phenomena is uncertain, there is evidently an increase in procoagulant proteins and a decrease in anticoagulants in PDAC patients. For example, the anticoagulant protein S (PS) is decreased during the progression of PDAC, a condition that possibly contributes to the hypercoagulopathies. PS is also an important signaling molecule that binds a family of tyrosine kinase receptors known as TAM (Tyro3, Axl and Mer) receptors; TAM receptors are often upregulated in different cancers. Growth Arrest Specific 6 or GAS6 protein, a homolog of PS, is also a TAM receptor family ligand. The downstream signaling pathways triggered by this ligand-receptor interaction perform diverse functions, such as cell survival, proliferation, efferocytosis, and apoptosis. Targeting the TAM receptors to treat cancer has had limited success; side effects are a significant obstacle due to the widespread numerous functions of TAM receptors. In the present study, it was revealed that PS-TAM interaction was pro-apoptotic, whereas GAS6-mediated TAM signaling promoted proliferation and survival in select PDAC cell lines. Furthermore, by regulating the balance between these two signaling pathways (by overexpressing PS or knocking down GAS6), the proliferative potential of the cells was decreased. Both long-term and short-term effects of natural PS overexpression were comparable to the treatment of the cells with the drug UNC2025, which inhibits the Mer-receptor. The present study lays the foundation for investigation of PS as a therapeutic agent to control cancer progression and to concurrently arrest thrombotic events.

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