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Functional characterization of cancer-associated Gab1 mutations.

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Ortiz-Padilla C, Gallego-Ortega D, Browne BC, Hochgräfe F, Caldon CE, Lyons RJ, Croucher DR, Rickwood D, Ormandy CJ, Brummer T, Daly RJ.; Oncogene advance online publication, 2 July 2012

Grb2-associated binder 1 (Gab1) is a docking protein that transduces signals from a variety of tyrosine kinases, including Met and the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Although the related protein Gab2 is strongly implicated in human cancer, a role for Gab1 has been less clear. However, a screen for gene mutations in breast cancer identified two somatic mutations in Gab1, Y83C and T387N. In this paper we describe the functional characterization of these Gab1 mutants. MCF-10A immortalized mammary epithelial cells overexpressing Gab1 Y83C and T387N exhibited a more elongated, fibroblastic phenotype compared with wild-type Gab1 controls. Expression of Gab1 or the mutants promoted epidermal growth factor (EGF)-independent proliferation in monolayer culture to a similar degree. However, in Matrigel culture, both mutants enhanced the formation of acini exhibiting an aberrant, branched morphology. In addition, expression of the mutants modestly increased Erk activation. The two mutants also enhanced branching morphogenesis in a different mammary epithelial cell line, HC11. To gain further insights into the mechanism of action of these mutations, we mapped Gab1 phosphorylation sites by mass spectrometry. This detected phosphorylation of T387 but ;not Y83. Cellular stimulation with EGF or hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) led to a transient, or sustained, induction of T387 phosphorylation, respectively. As T387 corresponds in position to Gab2 T391, which suppresses Gab2 signaling in a phosphorylation-dependent manner, these data support a model in which the T387N mutation abrogates negative-feedback regulation of Gab1. Interrogation of publically-available databases revealed additional cancer-associated mutations at, or in close proximity to, identified serine/threonine phosphorylation sites in other docking proteins. These data indicate that aberrant Gab1 signaling can directly contribute to breast cancer progression, and that negative feedback sites in docking proteins can be targeted by oncogenic mutations.

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