Buraschi S, et al. Matrix Biol 2020.
The growth factor progranulin plays a critical role in bladder cancer by modulating tumor cell motility and invasion. Progranulin regulates remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton by interacting with drebrin, an actin binding protein that regulates tumor growth. We previously discovered that progranulin depletion inhibits epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and markedly reduces in vivo tumor growth. Moreover, progranulin depletion sensitizes urothelial cancer cells to cisplatin treatment, further
substantiating a pro-survival function of progranulin. Until recently, the progranulin signaling receptor remained unidentified, precluding a full understanding of progranulin action in tumor cell biology. We recently identified EphA2, a member of a large family of receptor tyrosine-kinases, as the functional receptor for progranulin. However, it is not established whether EphA2 plays an oncogenic role in bladder cancer. Here we demonstrate that progranulin, and not ephrin-A1, the canonical ligand for EphA2, is the predominant EphA2 ligand in bladder cancer. Progranulin evoked Akt- and Erk1/2-mediated EphA2 phosphorylation at Ser897, which could drive bladder tumorigenesis. We discovered that EphA2 depletion severely blunted progranulin-dependent motility and anchorage-independent growth, and sensitized bladder cancer cells to cisplatin treatment. We further defined the mechanisms of progranulin/EphA2-dependent motility by identifying liprin-α1 as a novel progranulin-dependent EphA2 interacting protein and establishing its critical role in cell motility. The discovery of EphA2 as the functional signaling receptor for progranulin and the identification of novel downstream effectors offer a new avenue for understanding the underlying mechanism of progranulin action and may constitute novel clinical and therapeutic targets in bladder cancer.