Reduction in the expression of the anti-survival BH3-only proteins PUMA and Bim is associated with the pathogenesis of melanoma. However, we have found that the expression of the other BH3-only protein Noxa is commonly upregulated in melanoma cells, and that this is driven by oncogenic activation of MEK/ERK. Immunohistochemistry studies showed that Noxa was expressed at higher levels in melanomas than nevi. Moreover, the expression of Noxa was increased in metastatic compared to primary melanomas, and in thick primaries compared to thin primaries. Inhibition of oncogenic BRAFV600E or MEK downregulated Noxa, whereas activation of MEK/ERK caused its upregulation. In addition, introduction of BRAFV600E increased Noxa expression in melanocytes. Upregulation of Noxa was due to a transcriptional increase mediated by cAMP responsive element binding protein, activation of which was also increased by MEK/ERK signaling in melanoma cells. Significantly, Noxa appeared necessary for constitutive activation of autophagy, albeit at low levels, by MEK/ERK in melanoma cells. Furthermore, it was required for autophagy activation that delayed apoptosis in melanoma cells undergoing nutrient deprivation. These results reveal that oncogenic activation of MEK/ERK drives Noxa expression to promote autophagy, and suggest that Noxa has an indirect anti-apoptosis role in melanoma cells under nutrient starvation conditions.
Liu, Y. L., Lai, F., Wilmott, J. S., Yan, X. G., Liu, X. Y., Luan, Q., … Zhang, X. D. (2014). Noxa upregulation by oncogenic activation of MEK/ERK through CREB promotes autophagy in human melanoma cells. Oncotarget, 5(22). https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.2616