Cnk1 (connector enhancer of kinase suppressor of Ras 1) is a pleckstrin homology (PH) domain-containing scaffold protein that increases the efficiency of Ras signaling pathways, imparting efficiency and specificity to the response of cell proliferation, survival, and migration. Mutated KRAS (mut-KRAS) is the most common proto-oncogenic event, occurring in approximately 25% of human cancers and has no effective treatment. In this study, we show that selective inhibition of Cnk1 blocks growth and Raf/Mek/Erk, Rho and RalA/B signaling in mut-KRAS lung and colon cancer cells with little effect on wild-type (wt)-KRAS cells. Cnk1 inhibition decreased anchorage-independent mut-KRas cell growth more so than growth on plastic, without the partial "addiction" to mut-KRAS seen on plastic. The PH domain of Cnk1 bound with greater affinity to PtdIns(4,5)P2 than PtdIns(3,4,5)P3, and Cnk1 localized to areas of the plasma membranes rich in PtdIns, suggesting a role for the PH domain in the biological activity of Cnk1. Through molecular modeling and structural modification, we identified a compound PHT-7.3 that bound selectively to the PH domain of Cnk1, preventing plasma membrane colocalization with mut-KRas. PHT-7.3 inhibited mut-KRas, but not wild-type KRas cancer cell and tumor growth and signaling. Thus, the PH domain of Cnk1 is a druggable target whose inhibition selectively blocks mutant KRas activation, making Cnk1 an attractive therapeutic target in patients with mut-KRAS-driven cancer.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research