Melanomas resist conventional chemotherapeutics, in part, through intrinsic disrespect of apoptotic checkpoint activation. In this study, using an unbiased genome-wide RNA interference screen, we identified RhoJ and its effector PAK1, as key modulators of melanoma cell sensitivity to DNA damage.We find that RhoJ activates PAK1 in response to drug-induced DNA damage, which then uncouples ATR from its downstream effectors, ultimately resulting in a blunted DNA damage response (DDR). In addition, ATR suppression leads to the decreased phosphorylation of ATF2 and consequent increased expression of the melanocyte survival gene Sox10 resulting in a higher DDR threshold required to engage melanoma cell death. In the setting of normal melanocyte behavior, this regulatory relationship may facilitate appropriate epidermal melanization in response to UV-induced DNA damage. However, pathologic pathway activation during oncogenic transformation produces a tumor that is intrinsically resistant to chemotherapy and has the propensity to accumulate additional mutations. These findings identify DNA damage agents and pharmacologic inhibitors of RhoJ/PAK1 as novel synergistic agents that can be used to treat melanomas that are resistant to conventional chemotherapies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research