Overexpression of activin-A and -B in malignant mesothelioma – attenuated Smad3 signaling responses and ERK activation promote cell migration and invasive growth

Experimental Cell Research 2014 December 31 [Epub ahead of print] [Link]

Tamminen JA, Yin M, Rönty M, Sutinen E, Pasternack A, Ritvos O, Myllärniemi M, Koli K.


Activin-A and activin-B, members of the TGF-β superfamily, are regulators of reproductive functions, inflammation and wound healing. These dimeric molecules regulate various cellular activities such as proliferation, migration and suvival. Malignant mesothelioma is an asbestos exposure related tumor affecting mainly pleura and it usually has a dismal prognosis. Here, we demonstrate that both activin-A and -B are abundantly expressed in mesothelioma tumor tissue as well as in cultured primary and established mesothelioma cells. Migratory and invasive mesothelioma cells were also found to have attenuated activation of the Smad2/3 pathway in response to activins. Migration and invasive growth of the cells in three-dimentional matrix was prevented by inhibition of activin activity using a soluble activin receptor 2B (sActR2B-Fc). This was associated with decreased ERK activity. Furthermore, migration and invasive growth was significantly inhibited by blocking ERK phosphorylation. Mesothelioma tumors are locally invasive and our results clearly suggest that acivins have a tumor-promoting function in mesothelioma through increasing expression and switching from canonical Smad3 pathway to non-canonical ERK pathway signaling. Blocking activin activity offers a new therapeutic approach for inhibition of mesothelioma invasive growth.