Activation of c -Met contributes to growth and metastasis of human colorectal carcinoma

Matthew H Herynk, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


c-Met is the protein tyrosine kinase receptor for hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor (HGF/SF) and mediates several normal cellular functions including proliferation, survival, and migration. Overexpression of c-Met correlates with progression and metastasis of human colorectal carcinoma (CRC). The goals of this study were to determine if overexpression of c-Met directly contributes to tumorigenicity and liver metastatic potential of colon cancer, and what are the critical pathways regulated by c-Met in this process. The studies used two colon tumor cell lines, KM12SM and KM20, which express high levels of constitutively active c-Met and are highly metastatic in nude mice. To examine the effects of c-Met overexpression, subclones of theses lines with reduced c-Met expression were obtained following transfection with a c-Met specific targeting ribozyme. Reduction of c-Met in KM12SM cells abolished liver metastases when cells were injected intrasplenically in an experimental metastasis assay. However, c-Met downregulation in theses clones was unstable. Three stable KM20 clones with a 25–35% reduction in c-Met protein levels but 60–90% reduction in basal c-Met autophosphorylation and kinase activity were obtained. While HGF increased c-Met kinase activity in the clones with reduced c-Met, the activity was less than that observed in parental or control transfected cells. Correlating with the reduction in c-Met kinase activity, subclones with reduced c-Met expression had significantly reduced in vitro growth rates, soft-agar colony forming abilities, and increased apoptosis. HGF/SF treatment did not affect anchorage-dependent growth or soft-agar colony forming abilities. Further, c-Met downregulation significantly impaired the ability of HGF/SF to induce migration. To examine the effects of reduced c-Met on tumor formation, parental and c-Met reduced KM20 cells were grown subcutaneously and intrahepatically in nude mice. c-Met downregulation delayed, but did not abolish growth at the subcutaneous site. When these cells were injected intrahepatically, both tumor incidences and size were significantly reduced. To further understand the molecular basis of c-Met in promoting tumor growth, the activation of several signaling intermediates that have been implicated in c-Met mediated growth, survival and migration were compared between KM20 parental cells and subclones with reduced c-Met expression levels. The expression and activity (as determined by phosphorylation) of AKT and Erk1/2 were unaltered. In contrast, Src kinase activity, as measured by immune complex kinase assay, was reduced 2–5 fold following c-Met downregulation. As Src has been implicated in growth, survival and migration, Src activation in c-Met overexpressing lines is likely contributing to the tumorigenic and metastatic capabilities of colon tumor cell lines that overexpress c-Met. Collectively, these results suggest that c-Met overexpression plays a causal role in the development of CRC liver metastases, and that c-Src and c-Met inhibitors may be of potential therapeutic benefit for late-stage colon cancer.

Subject Area

Cellular biology|Oncology

Recommended Citation

Herynk, Matthew H, "Activation of c -Met contributes to growth and metastasis of human colorectal carcinoma" (2002). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3046055.