The stress-activated protein kinase (SAPK) pathways represent phosphorylation cascades that convey pro-apoptotic signals. The relevant inputs include Ras proteins as well as exposure of cells to ultraviolet light, tumor-necrosis factor, and other stress-related inputs. The mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MAPKK) homolog MAP2K4 (MKK4, SEK, JNKK1) is a centrally-placed mediator of the SAPK pathways. MAP2K4 mutations or homozygous deletions are reported in about 5% of a wide variety of tumor types. The exception is breast cancer, where genetic inactivation in 3 of 22 (15%) cell lines had suggested that the mutational involvement of MAP2K4 might be accentuated in this tumor type. This finding might have represented an important difference, or solely a chance numerical variation. To address this question, we studied an independent panel of 20 breast cancer cell lines and xenografts for MAP2K4 alterations. We found a splice acceptor mutation accompanied by loss of the other allele in the cell line MPE600. This was the sole alteration in this panel (5% of tumors). These data seem to re-establish a rather consistent rate of genetic inactivation of MAP2K4 among most tumor types, including breast cancer. The genetic evaluation of other mediators of the SAPK pathways might offer insight into a promising, but as yet poorly defined, tumor-suppressive system.
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