Hypoxia stabilizes GAS6/Axl signaling in metastatic prostate cancer

Anjali Mishra, Jingcheng Wang, Yusuke Shiozawa, Samantha McGee, Jinkoo Kim, Younghun Jung, Jeena Joseph, Janice E. Berry, Aaron Havens, Kenneth J. Pienta, Russell S. Taichman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The receptor tyrosine kinase Axl is overexpressed in a variety of cancers and is known to play a role in proliferation and invasion. Previous data from our laboratory indicate that Axl and its ligand growth arrest-specific 6 (GAS6) may play a role in establishing metastatic dormancy in the bone marrow microenvironment. In the current study, we found that Axl is highly expressed in metastatic prostate cancer cell lines PC3 and DU145 and has negligible levels of expression in a nonmetastatic cancer cell line LNCaP. Knockdown of Axl in PC3 and DU145 cells resulted in decreased expression of several mesenchymal markers including Snail, Slug, and N-cadherin, and enhanced expression of the epithelial marker E-cadherin, suggesting that Axl is involved in the epithelial-mesenchymal transition in prostate cancer cells. The Axl-knockdown PC3 and DU145 cells also displayed decreased in vitro migration and invasion. Interestingly, when PC3 and DU145 cells were treated with GAS6, Axl protein levels were downregulated. Moreover, CoCl2, a hypoxia mimicking agent, prevented GAS6-mediated downregulation of Axl in these cell lines. Immunochemical staining of human prostate cancer tissue microarrays showed that Axl, GAS6, and hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (Hif-1α indicator of hypoxia) were all coexpressed in prostate cancer and in bone metastases compared with normal tissues. Together, our studies indicate that Axl plays a crucial role in prostate cancer metastasis and that GAS6 regulates the expression of Axl. Importantly, in a hypoxic tumor microenvironment Axl expression is maintained leading to enhanced signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)703-712
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Cancer Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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