The receptor tyrosine kinase c-Kit plays a critical role in hematopoiesis and gain-of-function mutations of the receptor are frequently seen in several malignancies, including acute myeloid leukemia (AML), mastocytoma and sinonasal NK/T cell lymphomas. The most common mutation of c-Kit in these disorders is a substitution of the aspartic acid residue in position 816 to a valine (D816V), leading to constitutive activation of the receptor. In this study we aimed to investigate the role of Src family kinases in c-Kit/D816V signaling. Src family kinases are necessary for the phosphorylation of wild-type c-Kit as well as for activation of downstream signaling pathways including receptor ubiquitination and the Ras/MEK/Erk pathway. Tyrosine 568 of c-Kit, that is important for Src activation by wild-type c-Kit, was mutated to phenylalanine in both wild-type c-Kit and c-Kit/D816V and stably transfected into the hematopoietic cell line Ba/F3. Our data demonstrate that, unlike wild-type c-Kit, the phosphorylation of c-Kit/D816V is not dependent on Src family kinases. In addition we found that neither receptor ubiquitination nor Erk activation by c-Kit/D816V required activation of Src family kinases. In vitro kinase assay using synthetic peptides revealed that c-Kit/D816V had an altered substrate specificity resembling Src and Abl tyrosine kinases. The serine/threonine kinases Akt and Erk play important roles in cell survival and proliferation mediated by receptor tyrosine kinases. We could show constitutive activation of both PI3-kinase pathway and Erk in Ba/F3 cells expressing c-Kit/D816V, although ligand stimulation induced even stronger activation. We further present evidence that, in contrast to wild-type c-Kit, Src family kinases are dispensible for c-Kit/D816V cell survival. Taken together, we demonstrate that the signal transduction pathways mediated by c-Kit/D816V are markedly different from those activated by wild-type c-Kit and that altered substrate substrate specificity of c-Kit circumvents a need for Src family kinases in signaling of growth and survival, thereby contributing to the transforming potential of c-Kit/D816V.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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