Transcriptional upregulation of c-MYC by AXL confers epirubicin resistance in esophageal adenocarcinoma.Mol Oncol. 2018 12; 12(12):2191-2208.MO
AXL receptor tyrosine kinase is overexpressed in esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) and several other types of malignancies; hence, it may be a valuable therapeutic target. Herein, we investigated the role of AXL in regulating c-MYC expression and resistance to the chemotherapeutic agent epirubicin in EAC. Using in vitro EAC cell models, we found that AXL overexpression enhances epirubicin resistance in sensitive cells. Conversely, genetic knockdown or pharmacological inhibition of AXL sensitizes resistant cells to epirubicin. Notably, we showed that inhibition or knockdown of c-MYC markedly sensitizes AXL-dependent resistant cells to epirubicin, and our data demonstrated that AXL promotes epirubicin resistance through transcriptional upregulation of c-MYC. We showed that AXL overexpression significantly increased transcriptional activity, mRNA, and protein levels of c-MYC. Conversely, AXL knockdown reversed these effects. Mechanistic investigations indicated that AXL upregulates c-MYC expression through activation of the AKT/β-catenin signaling pathway. Data from a tumor xenograft mouse model indicated that inhibition of AXL with R428 in combination with epirubicin synergistically suppresses tumor growth and proliferation. Our results demonstrate that AXL promotes epirubicin resistance through transcriptional upregulation of c-MYC in EAC. Our findings support future clinical trials to assess the therapeutic potential of R428 in epirubicin-resistant tumors with overexpression of AXL and activation of c-MYC.