CENTRO DE BIOLOGÍA MOLECULAR SEVERO OCHOACaptura de pantalla 2022 09 14 a las 10.27.10    

Group of cellular signaling networks in cancer (onco-resecel)

Research summary:

Breast cancer is a disease of high prevalence with around 25,000 new diagnoses in Spain each year. Its incidence is much higher in the developed world, suggesting that the western lifestyle with unhealthy dietary habits (excessive caloric intake, overweight, obesity) and chronic stress states (adrenergic overstimulation) may influence the onset and progression of this disease.

The histopathological variety and molecular heterogeneity of breast tumors (luminal subtypes, triple negative, ERBB2), together with genomic instability and intra-tumoral cellular diversity, are factors that make difficult to achieve efficient treatments. In breast cancer, the main altered proteins responsible for genomic instability and heterogeneity are ATM kinase, Brca1 ligase and the tumor suppressor transcription factor p53 together with its negative regulator Mdm2 ligase. Although in ~ 80% of ductal breast carcinomas p53 is restrained by the activation/amplification of Mdm2 or by the deactivation of positive regulators such as ATM, therapies based on these targets are not yet satisfactory.


Fig 1. The Mdm2/GRK2/HDAC6 axis plays a key role in breast cancer progression. The interdependent activation of these signaling hubs promotes breast tumorogenesis through the stimulation of pro-tumoral angiogenesis, cellular proliferation, invasion and metastasis.

However, the identification of molecular dependencies in certain types of breast cancer has improved the treatment of patients with ERBB2(Her2) + or luminal tumors by using drugs directed against the HER2 tyrosine kinase receptor or the estrogen receptor (ER). However, in “triple negative” tumors (TNBCs) (negative for the steroid receptor (ER), progesterone (PR) and ERBB2 receptor) there are no clearly identified dependencies, and the treatments are not sufficiently effective. Another important problem is the emergence of resistance in luminal, Her2 and triple negative breast cancers, in parallel to the heterogeneity due to genomic instability and tumor metabolic reprogramming.

The objective of our group is to identify, as potential multifunctional therapeutic targets, signaling nodes that cooperate with oncogenes in the acquisition of tumor capacities (angiogenesis, proliferation, invasion or metastasis) or that block the activity of tumor suppressors, being able to alter the cellular homeostasis.

Results of our laboratory suggest that intertwined alterations of the serine-threonine kinase GRK2 and the Mdm2 ligase are key for cell-autonomous malignant transformation, as well as in the interplay of the transformed cell with the tumor micro-environment and the systemic condition of the patient. Our results indicate that these proteins modulate each other differently in normal epithelial cells and in tumor cells, responding in different ways to signals that stimulate adrenergic receptors and other G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR) or growth factor tyrosine kinase receptors (RTK).


Fig. 2. Animal models to study the role of the GRK2 / Mdm2 axis in the influence of various environmental stressors on tumor progression.

In this context, our research aims to characterize the role of these nodes (GRK2 and Mdm2), as the relevant proteins phosphorylated and ubiquitinated by them, in a) diverse cellular processes such as cell cycle control and cell division, differentiation, energy metabolism or senescence, which are key in maintaining a normal cell behavior; b) in the consequences of hormonal (adrenergic, estrogenic) and metabolic stress on genomic stability; and c) in pro-tumoral stroma remodeling by analyzing the pathological angiogenesis and fibrosis that facilitate tumor growth and dissemination.


Fig. 3. Concurrent upregulation of GRK2 and Mdm2 is a feature of tumor breast epithelial cells, particularly in the hormone receptor-positive luminal subtype, which confers cellular chemoresistance.


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Last nameNameLaboratoryExt.*e-mailProfessional category
Arroba GallegoJavier320911964652Estudiante TFM
García MateosDafne3044656dafne.garcia(at)cbm.csic.esTitulado Sup.Inv.y Laboratorio
González MuñozTeresa3204652Investigador Indef. GP1
Moyano JimenoClara 3204652cmoyano(at)cbm.csic.esTitulado Sup.Inv.y Laboratorio
Nogués VeraLaura3204640lnogues(at)cbm.csic.esProfesor Ayudante Doctor Universidad
Penela MárquezPetronila3204640ppenela(at)cbm.csic.esProfesor Titular Universidad, GA
Rodríguez BlancoClara3204652Estudiante TFG
Vázquez de OroEstefanía3204652evazquez(at)cbm.csic.esTco. de Investigación y Laboratorio

Relevant publications:

  • P Penela; J Inserte; P Ramos; D García-Dorado; F Mayor Jr. Degradation of GRK2 and AKT is an early and detrimental event in ischemia/reperfusion. EbioMedicine (2019) in press
  • P Penela; C Ribas; F Sánchez-Madrid; F Mayor Jr. G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 (GRK2) as a multifunctional signaling hub. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences (2019) doi: 10.1007/s00018-019-03274-3
  • D Aluja; J Inserte J; P Penela; P Ramos; C Ribas; MA Iñiguez; F Mayor Jr; D Garcia-Dorado. Calpains mediate isoproterenol-induced hypertrophy through modulation of GRK2. Basic Research in Cardiology (2019) 114: 21 (1-14)
  • L Nogués; J Palacios-García; C Reglero; V Rivas; M Neves; C Ribas; P Penela; F Mayor. G protein-coupled receptor kinases (GRKs) in tumorigenesis and cancer progression: GPCR regulators and signaling hubs. Seminars in Cancer Biology. (2018) S1044-579X(17)
  • L. Nogués, C. Reglero, V. Rivas, M. Neves, P. Penela and F. Mayor Jr. G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 (GRK2) as a potential modulator of the hallmarks of cancer. Mol. Pharmacol. (2017) 91: 220-228
  • L. Nogués, C. Reglero, V. Rivas, A. Salcedo, V. Lafarga, M. Neves, P. Ramos , M. Mendiola, A. Berjón, K. Stamatakis, X. Z. Zhou, K. P. Lu, D.Hardisson, F. Mayor, jr., and P.Penela. G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 (GRK2) promotes breast tumorigenesis through a novel HDAC6-Pin1 axis. EBioMedicine (2016) 13: 132-145
  • P. Penela. Ubiquitination and Protein Turnover of G Protein coupled Receptor Kinases in GPCR Signaling and Cellular Regulation. Progress in Molecular Biology and Translation Science (2016) 141: 85-140
  • V. Rivas, L. Nogués, C. Reglero, F. Mayor .Jr. and P. Penela. Role of G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 in tumoural angiogenesis Mol. Cell. Oncol. (2014) e969166-1-11
  • Fernández-Arenas E, Calleja E, Martínez-Martín N, Gharbi SI, Navajas R, García-Medel N, Penela P, Alcamí A, Mayor F Jr, Albar JP, Alarcón B.β-Arrestin-1 mediates the TCR-triggered re-routing of distal receptors to the immunological synapse by a PKC-mediated mechanism. EMBO J.(2014) 33: 559-577
  • P. Penela, L. Nogués, and F. Mayor Jr. Roles of GRKs in cell migration. Curr. Opin. Cell Biol. (2014) 27: 10-17
  • V. Rivas , R. Carmona ., R. Muñoz-Chápuli, M. Mendiola, L. Nogués, C. Reglero, M. Miguel-Martín, R. García-Escudero, G. W Dorn II, D. Hardisson, F. Mayor, jr. and P. Penela. Developmental and tumoural vascularization is regulated by G-protein-coupled receptor kinase 2. J. Clin. Invest (2013) 123: 4714-4730

Doctoral theses:

  • Verónica Rivas Guerrero (2018) “Caracterización del papel funcional de GRK2 en la fisiología del endotelio y en los procesos vasculares de angiogénesis y vasculogénesis”
  • Clara Reglero Gomez (2017) “Regulation of GRK2 by Mdm2 and the APC/C complex: a way to fine-tune dynamics and faithful progression of the cell cycle”
  • Laura Nogués Vera (2014) “GRK2 as a new onco-modulator of breast tumoural transformation through the regulation of the p53/MDM2 axis”

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