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The serine protease inhibitor serpinE2 is a novel target of ERK signaling involved in human colorectal tumorigenesis

Sébastien Bergeron1, Etienne Lemieux1, Véronique Durand1, Sébastien Cagnol1, Julie C Carrier2, Jacques G Lussier3, Marie-Josée Boucher2 and Nathalie Rivard1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, CIHR Team on Digestive Epithelium, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada

2 Service of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada

3 Faculté de Médecine Vétérinaire, Université de Montréal, St-Hyacinthe, Québec, Canada

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Molecular Cancer 2010, 9:271  doi:10.1186/1476-4598-9-271

Published: 13 October 2010



Among the most harmful of all genetic abnormalities that appear in colorectal cancer (CRC) development are mutations of KRAS and its downstream effector BRAF as they result in abnormal extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) signaling. In a previous report, we had shown that expression of a constitutive active mutant of MEK1 (caMEK) in normal rat intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) induced morphological transformation associated with epithelial to mesenchymal transition, growth in soft agar, invasion and metastases in nude mice. Results from microarrays comparing control to caMEK-expressing IECs identified the gene encoding for serpinE2, a serine protease inhibitor, as a potential target of activated MEK1.


1- RT-PCR and western blot analyses confirmed the strong up-regulation of serpinE2 expression and secretion by IECs expressing oncogenic MEK, Ras or BRAF. 2- Interestingly, serpinE2 mRNA and protein were also markedly enhanced in human CRC cells exhibiting mutation in KRAS and BRAF. 3- RNAi directed against serpinE2 in caMEK-transformed rat IECs or in human CRC cell lines HCT116 and LoVo markedly decreased foci formation, anchorage-independent growth in soft agarose, cell migration and tumor formation in nude mice. 4- Treatment of CRC cell lines with U0126 markedly reduced serpinE2 mRNA levels, indicating that expression of serpinE2 is likely dependent of ERK activity. 5- Finally, Q-PCR analyses demonstrated that mRNA levels of serpinE2 were markedly increased in human adenomas in comparison to healthy adjacent tissues and in colorectal tumors, regardless of tumor stage and grade.


Our data indicate that serpinE2 is up-regulated by oncogenic activation of Ras, BRAF and MEK1 and contributes to pro-neoplastic actions of ERK signaling in intestinal epithelial cells. Hence, serpinE2 may be a potential therapeutic target for colorectal cancer treatment.