Overexpression of MERTK receptor tyrosine kinase in epithelial cancer cells drives efferocytosis in a gain-of-function capacity

Khanh Quynh N. Nguyen, Wen I. Tsou, Daniel A. Calarese, Stanley G. Kimani, Sukhwinder Singh, Shelly Hsieh, Yongzhang Liu, Bin Lu, Yi Wu, Scott J. Garforth, Steve C. Almo, Sergei V. Kotenko, Raymond B. Birge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Scopus citations

Abstract

MERTK, a member of the TAM (TYRO3, AXL, and MERTK) receptor tyrosine kinases, has complex and diverse roles in cell biology. On the one hand, knock-out of MERTK results in agedependent autoimmunity characterized by failure of apoptotic cell clearance, while on the other, MERTK overexpression in cancer drives classical oncogene pathways leading to cell transformation. To better understand the interplay between cell transformation and efferocytosis, we stably expressed MERTK in human MCF10A cells, a non-tumorigenic breast epithelial cell line devoid of endogenous MERTK. While stable expression of MERTK in MCF10A resulted in enhanced motility and AKTmediated chemoprotection, MERTK-10A cells did not form stable colonies in soft agar, or enhance proliferation compared with parental MCF10A cells. Concomitant to chemoresistance, MERTK also stimulated efferocytosis in a gain-of-function capacity. However, unlike AXL, MERTK activation was highly dependent on apoptotic cells, suggestingMERTKmay preferentially interface with phosphatidylserine. Consistent with this idea, knockdown ofMERTKin breast cancer cellsMDA-MB231 reduced efferocytosis, while transient or stable expression of MERTK stimulated apoptotic cell clearance in all cell lines tested. Moreover, human breast cancer cells with higher endogenous MERTK showed higher levels of efferocytosis that could be blocked by solubleTAMreceptors. Finally, through MERTK, apoptotic cells induced PD-L1 expression, an immune checkpoint blockade, suggesting that cancer cells may adopt MERTKdriven efferocytosis as an immune suppression mechanism for their advantage. These data collectively identify MERTK as a significant link between cancer progression and efferocytosis, and a potentially unrealized tumor-promoting event when MERTK is overexpressed in epithelial cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25737-25749
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Volume289
Issue number37
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 12 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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    Nguyen, K. Q. N., Tsou, W. I., Calarese, D. A., Kimani, S. G., Singh, S., Hsieh, S., Liu, Y., Lu, B., Wu, Y., Garforth, S. J., Almo, S. C., Kotenko, S. V., & Birge, R. B. (2014). Overexpression of MERTK receptor tyrosine kinase in epithelial cancer cells drives efferocytosis in a gain-of-function capacity. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 289(37), 25737-25749. https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M114.570838