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PDZ-binding kinase promotes adrenocortical carcinoma cell proliferation and tumorigenesis

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Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare and deadly disease that affects 0.5-2 people per million per year in the US. Currently, the first line clinical management includes surgical resection, followed

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare and deadly disease that affects 0.5-2 people per million per year in the US. Currently, the first line clinical management includes surgical resection, followed by treatment with the chemotherapeutic agent mitotane. These interventions, however, have limited effectiveness, as the overall five-year survival rate of patients with ACC is less than 35%. Therefore, further scientific investigation underlying the molecular mechanisms and biomarkers of this disease is of high importance. The aim of this project was to identify potential biomarkers that may be used as prognosticators as well as candidate genes that might be targeted to develop new therapies for patients with ACC. An analysis of publicly-available datasets revealed PDZ-binding kinase (PBK) as being upregulated roughly 9-fold in ACC tissue compared to normal adrenal tissue. PBK has been implicated as an oncogene in several other systems, and its expression has been shown to negatively impact patient survival. Initial experiments have confirmed the upregulation of PBK in H295R cells, a human ACC cell line. We effectively silenced PBK (>95% reduction in protein content) in H295R cells using lentiviral shRNA constructs. Using high and low PBK expressing cells, we performed soft agar assays for colony formation, and found that the PBK-silenced cells produced two-fold fewer colonies than the vector control (p<0.05). This indicates that PBK likely plays a role in tumorigenicity. We further conducted functional studies for apoptosis and proliferation to elucidate the mechanism by which PBK increases tumorigenicity. Preliminary results from MTS assays showed that after 9 days, PBK-silenced cells proliferated significantly less than the vector control, so PBK likely increases proliferation. Together these data identify PBK as a kinase implicated in ACC tumorigenesis. Further in vitro and in vivo studies will be conducted to evaluate PBK as a potential therapeutic target in adrenocortical carcinoma.

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  • 2016-12