Centrosomal kinase Nek2 is overexpressed in different cancers, yet how it contributes toward tumorigenesis remains poorly understood. dNek2 overexpression in a Drosophila melanogaster model led to upregulation of Drosophila Wnt ortholog wingless (Wg), and alteration of cell migration markers-Rho1, Rac1 and E-cadherin (Ecad)-resulting in changes in cell shape and tissue morphogenesis. dNek2 overexpression cooperated with receptor tyrosine kinase and mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling to upregulate activated Akt, Diap1, Mmp1 and Wg protein to promote local invasion, distant seeding and metastasis. In tumor cell injection assays, dNek2 cooperated with Ras and Src signaling to promote aggressive colonization of tumors into different adult fly tissues. Inhibition of the PI3K pathway suppressed the cooperation of dNek2 with other growth pathways. Consistent with our fly studies, overexpression of human Nek2 in A549 lung adenocarcinoma and HEK293T cells led to activation of the Akt pathway and increase in β-catenin protein levels. Our computational approach identified a class of Nek2-inhibitory compounds and a novel drug-like pharmacophore that reversed the Nek2 overexpression phenotypes in flies and human cells. Our finding posits a novel role for Nek2 in promoting metastasis in addition to its currently defined role in promoting chromosomal instability. It provides a rationale for the selective advantage of centrosome amplification in cancer.
- Nek2 cancer model
- Nek2 inhibitor