A Novel Mechanism by which Tissue Transglutaminase Activates Signaling Events that Promote Cell Survival [Signal Transduction]

February 25th, 2014 by Boroughs, L. K., Antonyak, M. A., Cerione, R. A.

Tissue transglutaminase (tTG) functions as a GTPase and an acyl transferase that catalyzes the formation of protein crosslinks. tTG expression is frequently up-regulated in human cancer, where it has been implicated in various aspects of cancer progression, including cell survival and chemo-resistance. However, the extent to which tTG cooperates with other proteins within the context of a cancer cell, versus its intrinsic ability to confer transformed characteristics to cells, is poorly understood. To address this question, we asked what effect the ectopic expression of tTG in a non-transformed cellular background would have on the behavior of the cells. Using NIH3T3 fibroblasts stably expressing a Myc-tagged form of tTG, we found that tTG strongly protected these cells from serum starvation-induced apoptosis and triggered the activation of the PI3-kinase/mTOR Complex 1 (mTORC1)/p70 S6-kinase pathway. We determined that tTG forms a complex with the non-receptor tyrosine kinase c-Src and PI3-kinase, and that treating cells with inhibitors to block tTG function (monodansylcadaverine; MDC) or c-Src kinase activity (PP2) disrupted the formation of this complex, and prevented tTG from activating the PI3-kinase pathway. Moreover, treatment of fibroblasts over-expressing tTG with PP2, or with inhibitors that inactivate components of the PI3-kinase pathway, including PI3-kinase (LY294002) and mTORC1 (rapamycin), ablated the tTG-promoted survival of the cells. These findings demonstrate that tTG has an intrinsic capability to stimulate cell survival through a novel mechanism that activates PI3-kinase signaling events, thus highlighting tTG as a potential target for the treatment of human cancer.