Murine, but not human, ephrin-B2 can be efficiently cleaved by the serine protease kallikrein-4: implications for xenograft models of human prostate cancer.Exp Cell Res 2015; 333(1):136-46EC
Ephrin-B2 is the sole physiologically-relevant ligand of the receptor tyrosine kinase EphB4, which is over-expressed in many epithelial cancers, including 66% of prostate cancers, and contributes to cancer cell survival, invasion and migration. Crucially, however, the cancer-promoting EphB4 signalling pathways are independent of interaction with its ligand ephrin-B2, as activation of ligand-dependent signalling causes tumour suppression. Ephrin-B2, however, is often found on the surface of endothelial cells of the tumour vasculature, where it can regulate angiogenesis to support tumour growth. Proteolytic cleavage of endothelial cell ephrin-B2 has previously been suggested as one mechanism whereby the interaction between tumour cell-expressed EphB4 and endothelial cell ephrin-B2 is regulated to support both cancer promotion and angiogenesis.
An in silico approach was used to search accessible surfaces of 3D protein models for cleavage sites for the key prostate cancer serine protease, KLK4, and this identified murine ephrin-B2 as a potential KLK4 substrate. Mouse ephrin-B2 was then confirmed as a KLK4 substrate by in vitro incubation of recombinant mouse ephrin-B2 with active recombinant human KLK4. Cleavage products were visualised by SDS-PAGE, silver staining and Western blot and confirmed by N-terminal sequencing.
At low molar ratios, KLK4 cleaved murine ephrin-B2 but other prostate-specific KLK family members (KLK2 and KLK3/PSA) were less efficient, suggesting cleavage was KLK4-selective. The primary KLK4 cleavage site in murine ephrin-B2 was verified and shown to correspond to one of the in silico predicted sites between extracellular domain residues arginine 178 and asparagine 179. Surprisingly, the highly homologous human ephrin-B2 was poorly cleaved by KLK4 at these low molar ratios, likely due to the 3 amino acid differences at this primary cleavage site.
These data suggest that in in vivo mouse xenograft models, endogenous mouse ephrin-B2, but not human tumour ephrin-B2, may be a downstream target of cancer cell secreted human KLK4. This is a critical consideration when interpreting data from murine explants of human EphB4+/KLK4+ cancer cells, such as prostate cancer cells, where differential effects may be seen in mouse models as opposed to human clinical situations.