The semaphorins and their receptors, the neuropilins and the plexins, are constituents of a complex regulatory system that controls axonal guidance. Moreover, many types of tumor cells express various members of semaphorins and receptors, but the biological activities within tumor mass and the signal transduction mechanism(s) they use are largely unknown. Here, we show that in asbestos-related malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), Semaphorin-6D (Sema6D) and its receptor plexin-A1 are frequently expressed and trigger a prosurvival program that promotes anchorage-independent growth of MPM cells. Interestingly, the same response is also controlled by the tyrosine kinas ereceptors of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) through a nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB)-dependent pathway. We found that in MPM cells, plexin-Al and VEGF-receptor 2 (VEGF-R2) are associated in a complex. Moreover, the presence of Sema6D promotes the tyrosine phosphorylation of VEGF-R2 in a plexin-Al-dependent manner. This is necessary for basal and Sema6D-induced NF-κB transcriptional activity, and NF-κB mediates tumor cell survival. Expression of Sema6D and plexin-Al is induced by asbestos fibers and overexpression of plexin-A1 in nonmalignant mesothelial cells inhibits cell death after asbestos exposure. This work identifies a new biological function of semaphorins in cancer cells and suggests the involvement of an undescribed survival pathway during MPM tumorigenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research