Met Proto-Oncogene and its Ligand, HGF/SF and Breast Cancer

Prof. Ilan Tsarfaty, Ph.D.
Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology

Breast cancer is the most common malignant disease in western women. In the majority of cases the cause of death in cancer patients is not the primary tumors, but complications derived from metastases at distant sites. The met proto-oncogene product (Met - a receptor tyrosine kinase) and its ligand, hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor (HGF/SF), mediate cell motility and proliferation in vitro and tumorigenicity, angiogenesis and metastasis in vivo. Mimp/Mtch2, a mitochondrial carrier homologue cloned in our lab, is induced by Met-HGF/SF signaling and is involved in metabolic and bioenergetic processes. We have previously shown that activation of Met by HGF/SF induces an increase in tumor blood volume in a dose-dependent manner. Mimp/Mtch2 reduces cells proliferation in vitro and tumor growth in vivo. Several anti-Met targeted therapies are in development and some have entered phase III clinical trials.


The goal of our studies is to further understand the role of Met-Mimp/Mtch2 in cancer progression and metastasis, and to develop modalities for personalizing targeted Met therapy. Fluorescent tagged–Met proteins were used to study Met mitogenic effect on cells. Met induced cell motility is mediated by the formation of membrane structures such as ruffles, pseudopodia and blebs. Over expression of GFP-Met WT results in its constitutive activation, cell rounding and detachment, and dynamic nonapoptotic membrane blebbing. Bleb retraction results in numerous membrane microspikes where CFP-Met WT, YFP-actin and membrane markers accumulate.


Expression of Dominant-Negative (DN) YFP-Met alone did not induce any membrane blebbing, and co-expression of CFP-Met WT and YFP-Met DN significantly reduces membrane blebbing. Using confocal based molecular imaging we also show that Mimp/Mtch2 reduces the levels of reactive oxygen species ROS and prevents the HGF/SF induced increase in ROS. Mimp/Mtch2 also reduces the polarization of the mitochondrial membrane potential.


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