Knockdown of RON receptor kinase delays but does not prevent tumor progression while enhancing HGF/MET signaling in pancreatic cancer cell lines

S. Zhao, L. Cao, J. W. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


In this study, the role of RON (receptor originated from nantes) in tumor progression was further investigated in context with MET expression and activity. RON and MET expressions were not detected in an immortalized normal human pancreas cell line (HPNE), but were co-expressed in five of seven pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cell lines (PANC-1, BxPC-3, Capan-2, CFPAC-1 and AsPC-1). RON expression was knocked down by an shRNA approach in two PDAC cell lines (BxPC-3 and CFPAC-1) that co-express MET. Knockdown of RON significantly inhibited cell growth, clonogenicity and macrophage stimulating protein (MSP), RON ligand induced invasion by in vitro assays and significantly inhibited tumor growth (P<0.001) and metastasis (P<0.009) in an orthotopic pancreatic cancer mouse model at week 7. However, by week 9, the mice implanted with RON knockdown cells had developed similar size primary tumors and metastases compared with that seen in the control group at week 7. Western blotting and immunohistochemistry analyses showed that MET remains highly expressed in cells and tumor tissues where RON was knocked down. Moreover, knockdown of RON did not prevent hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) stimulated invasion in in vitro Matrigel assays. Treating cells with MSP induced the transphosphorylation of MET, suggesting that signaling may be modulated by relative levels of RON and MET receptors and their corresponding ligands. To this point, HGF treatment of RON knockdown cells caused an increase in intensity and duration of MET signaling, suggesting that MET signaling may compensate for loss of RON signaling. Treatment of cells with an MET inhibitor, PHA-665752, had minimal effects on inhibiting cell growth but significantly inhibited cell invasion induce by ligands for either MET or RON. These results suggest that HGF/MET signaling may have a more important role in tumor cell invasion and metastasis rather than in tumor cell proliferation. This study indicates that specific inhibition of RON delays but does not prevent progression of PDAC. Moreover, specific signaling may be modulated by the interaction of RON and MET receptors. This dynamic interaction of RON and MET in pancreatic cancer cells suggests that dual targeting of both RON and MET will be preferable to inhibition of either target alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere76
StatePublished - 2013


  • Cancer therapy
  • MET
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • RON

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


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