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Implication du récepteur à activité tyrosine kinase (RTK) MET sur la balance survie/apoptose et identification de nouvelles mutations de RTKs dans les cancers colorectaux métastatiques

Abstract : RTKs are involved in tissue dialogue by regulating many cellular mechanisms such as survival, proliferation or mobility. In cancers, these receptors are frequently deregulated, as a result of various molecular alterations leading to their activation. RTKs overactivation induces cell transformation and tumorigenesis notably by promoting survival. Since the early 2000s, the development of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) demonstrated that RTKs represent major therapeutic targets in cancer treatment.MET receptor and its ligand the Hepatocyte Growth Factor/Scatter Factor (HGF/SF) are known to promote survival of many epithelial structures during embryogenesis and later during adulthood. Besides pro-survival role of the ligand-activated MET, the receptor is also able to promote apoptosis, which has led to classify it within the dependence receptor family. Indeed, in absence of its ligand and under stress conditions, MET is cleaved by caspases leading to the production of an intracellular fragment of nearly 40 kDa named p40MET able to amplify apoptosis. This fragment activates the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis by causing mitochondrial permeabilization. However, the molecular mechanisms involved in this permeabilization and the physiological impact of the pro-apoptotic function of MET were still unknown.My PhD work has evidenced p40MET localization at the MAM microdomain and characterized a calcium transfer from the endoplasmic reticulum to the mitochondria triggered by p40MET. This calcium transfer triggers a calcium overload in mitochondria leading to their membrane permeabilization and apoptosis. In addition, we engineered a knock-in mouse model expressing mutated MET at the C-terminal caspase site. These mice are unable to produce the pro-apoptotic p40MET fragment. This model allowed us to assess the importance of MET cleavage in physiological apoptosis in vivo. Altogether, our work brings the first evidence for MET function as a dependence receptor in an organism and demonstrates a new signaling mechanism involved in apoptosis amplification by p40MET through calcium flux deregulation. This process may be relevant in the physio-pathology of organs where MET is expressed.In recent years, the discovery of mutations affecting RTKs in cancers has increased exponentially. However, for a large majority of mutations, their functional consequences are totally unknown. Thus, in parallel of my main thesis topic, we evaluated the biological and clinical relevance of RTKs mutations identified by high throughput sequencing from patient samples. Sequencing of healthy tissues, colorectal tumours and liver metastases of 30 patients has identified many somatic mutations. Some of them affect the receptor kinase domain and are present in both tumors and metastases. Functional analysis of 7 of these mutations shows that they do not cause neither kinase overactivation nor transformation of NIH3T3 fibroblasts. On the contrary, two RTK mutations cause drastic inhibition of the corresponding kinase activity. These findings indicate that these RTK variants are not suitable targets for TKI. Therefore, it appears important to set up reliable functional assays to interpret identified variants and classify them as pathogenic or neutral.In conclusion, my work opens up new perspectives on therapeutic strategies targeting RTKs in cancers. First of all, the pro-apoptotic capacities of some RTKs are undoubtedly a brake to tumorigenesis, and their stimulations could reinforce the effectiveness of anti-cancer therapies. On the other hand, we have shown that RTKs mutations in the kinase domain do not necessarily lead to overactivation of the receptor suggesting that they are probably not involved in tumorigenesis and that treatment with TKIs targeting them would be ineffective. This functional information could notably influence the choice of a suitable targeted therapy.
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Leslie Duplaquet. Implication du récepteur à activité tyrosine kinase (RTK) MET sur la balance survie/apoptose et identification de nouvelles mutations de RTKs dans les cancers colorectaux métastatiques. Médecine humaine et pathologie. Université du Droit et de la Santé - Lille II, 2018. Français. ⟨NNT : 2018LIL2S031⟩. ⟨tel-02078769⟩

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