Early Detection Research Network

Cyclin-dependent kinase 5 is amplified and overexpressed in pancreatic cancer and activated by mutant K-Ras.

To evaluate the nature of cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (CDK5) hyperactivity in pancreatic cancer progression.

We used genetic, biochemical, and molecular biology methods to investigate the nature and function of overexpression of CDK5 and its activators p35 and p39 during the progression of pancreatic cancer.

Amplification of the CDK5 gene or either of its main activators, p35 and p39, was observed in 67% of human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). CDK5, p35, and p39 were rarely expressed in pancreatic ducts whereas more than 90% of PDACs had increased levels of CDK5 and p35. Increased levels of CDK5, p35, and p39 protein were observed in several pancreatic cancer cell lines. Inhibition of CDK5 kinase activity using a CDK5 dominant-negative mutant or the drug roscovitine significantly decreased the migration and invasion of pancreatic cancer cells in vitro. Increased CDK5 kinase activity was also observed in immortalized human pancreatic nestin-expressing (HPNE) cells expressing a mutant form of K-Ras (G12D) compared with HPNE cells expressing native K-Ras. G12D K-Ras increased cleavage of p35 to p25, a stable and greater activator of CDK5, thus implicating a role for CDK5 in early progression of PDAC. Inhibition of the signaling cascade downstream of mutant K-Ras (G12D) that involves mitogen-activated protein/extracellular signal-regulated kinase, phosphoinositide 3-kinase, or CDK5 decreased p25 protein levels.

These results suggest that mutant K-Ras acts in concert with CDK5 and its activators to increase malignant progression, migration, and invasion of pancreatic cancer cells.

Andersen JM, Caffrey TC, Collisson EC, Eggers JP, Grandgenett PM, High RR, Hollingsworth MA, Lewallen ME, Ouellette M, Singh PK, Swanson BJ, Tremayne J

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Clin. Cancer Res., 2011, 17 (19)