Single Amino Acid Substitutions in the Chemotactic Sequence of Urokinase Receptor Modulate Cell Migration and Invasion

Katia Bifulco, Immacolata Longanesi-Cattani, Paola Franco, Vincenzo Pavone, Pietro Mugione, Gioconda Di Carluccio, Maria Teresa Masucci, Claudio Arra, Giuseppe Pirozzi, Maria Patrizia Stoppelli, Maria Vincenza Carriero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The receptor for urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPAR) plays an important role in controlling cell migration. uPAR binds urokinase and vitronectin extracellular ligands, and signals in complex with transmembrane receptors such as Formyl-peptide Receptors (FPR)s and integrins. Previous work from this laboratory has shown that synthetic peptides, corresponding to the uPAR88-92 chemotactic sequence, when carrying the S90P or S90E substitutions, up- or down-regulate cell migration, respectively. To gain mechanistic insights into these opposite cell responses, the functional consequences of S90P and S90E mutations in full-length uPAR were evaluated. First, (HEK)-293 embryonic kidney cells expressing uPARS90P exhibit enhanced FPR activation, increased random and directional cell migration, long-lasting Akt phosphorylation, and increased adhesion to vitronectin, as well as uPAR/vitronectin receptor association. In contrast, the S90E substitution prevents agonist-triggered FPR activation and internalization, decreases binding and adhesion to vitronectin, and inhibits uPAR/vitronectin receptor association. Also, 293/uPARS90P cells appear quite elongated and their cytoskeleton well organized, whereas 293/uPARS90E cells assume a large flattened morphology, with random orientation of actin filaments. Interestingly, when HT1080 cells co-express wild type uPAR with uPAR S90E, the latter behaves as a dominant-negative, impairing uPAR-mediated signaling and reducing cell wound repair as well as lung metastasis in nude mice. In contrast, signaling, wound repair and in vivo lung metastasis of HT1080 cells bearing wild type uPAR are enhanced when they co-express uPARS90P. In conclusion, our findings indicate that Ser90 is a critical residue for uPAR signaling and that the S90P and S90E exert opposite effects on uPAR activities. These findings may be accommodated in a molecular model, in which uPARS90E and uPARS90P are forced into inactive and active forms, respectively, suggesting important implications for the development of novel drugs targeting uPAR function.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere44806
JournalPLoS One
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 25 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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