Hayashi Y, Asuzu DT, Gibbons SJ, Aarsvold KH, Bardsley MR, Lomberk GA, Mathison AJ, Kendrick ML, Shen KR, Taguchi T, Gupta A, Rubin BP, Fletcher JA, Farrugia G, Urrutia RA, Ordog T
STEM CELL FACTOR (MOUSE: Kitl, human: KITLG) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF1), acting via KIT and IGF1 receptor (IGF1R), respectively, are critical for the development and integrity of several tissues. Autocrine/paracrine KITLG-KIT and IGF1-IGF1R signaling are also activated in several cancers including gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST), the most common sarcoma. In murine gastric muscles, IGF1 promotes Kitl-dependent development of interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC), the non-neoplastic counterpart of GIST, suggesting cooperation between these pathways. Here, we report a novel mechanism linking IGF1-IGF1R and KITLG-KIT signaling in both normal and neoplastic cells. In murine gastric muscles, the microenvironment for ICC and GIST, human hepatic stellate cells (LX-2), a model for cancer niches, and GIST cells, IGF1 stimulated Kitl/KITLG protein and mRNA expression and promoter activity by activating several signaling pathways including AKT-mediated glycogen synthase kinase-3β inhibition (GSK3i). GSK3i alone also stimulated Kitl/KITLG expression without activating mitogenic pathways. Both IGF1 and GSK3i induced chromatin-level changes favoring transcriptional activation at the Kitl promoter including increased histone H3/H4 acetylation and H3 lysine (K) 4 methylation, reduced H3K9 and H3K27 methylation and reduced occupancy by the H3K27 methyltransferase EZH2. By pharmacological or RNA interference-mediated inhibition of chromatin modifiers we demonstrated that these changes have the predicted impact on KITLG expression. KITLG knock-down and immunoneutralization inhibited the proliferation of GIST cells expressing wild-type KIT, signifying oncogenic autocrine/paracrine KITLG-KIT signaling. We conclude that membrane-to-nucleus signaling involving GSK3i establishes a previously unrecognized link between the IGF1-IGF1R and KITLG-KIT pathways, which is active in both physiologic and oncogenic contexts and can be exploited for therapeutic purposes.