Schwannomas are common, highly morbid and medically untreatable tumors that can arise in patients with germ line as well as somatic mutations in neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2). These mutations most commonly result in the loss of function of the NF2-encoded protein, Merlin. Little is known about how Merlin functions endogenously as a tumor suppressor and how its loss leads to oncogenic transformation in Schwann cells (SCs). Here, we identify nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB)-inducing kinase (NIK) as a potential drug target driving NF-κB signaling and Merlin-deficient schwannoma genesis. Using a genomic approach to profile aberrant tumor signaling pathways, we describe multiple upregulated NF-κB signaling elements in human and murine schwannomas, leading us to identify a caspase-cleaved, proteasome-resistant NIK kinase domain fragment that amplifies pathogenic NF-κB signaling. Lentiviral-mediated transduction of this NIK fragment into normal SCs promotes proliferation, survival, and adhesion while inducing schwannoma formation in a novel in vivo orthotopic transplant model. Furthermore, we describe an NF-κB-potentiated hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) to MET proto-oncogene receptor tyrosine kinase (c-Met) autocrine feed-forward loop promoting SC proliferation. These innovative studies identify a novel signaling axis underlying schwannoma formation, revealing new and potentially druggable schwannoma vulnerabilities with future therapeutic potential.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology