STI571 inactivation of the gastrointestinal stromal tumor c-KIT oncoprotein: Biological and clinical implications
Mutations in the c-KIT receptor occur somatically in many sporadic Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST), and similar mutations have been identified at the germline level in kindreds with multiple GISTs. These mutations activate the tyrosine kinase activity of c-KIT and induce constitutive signaling. To investigate the function of activated c-KIT in GIST, we established a human GIST cell line, GIST882, which expresses an activating KIT mutation (K642E) in the first part of the cytoplasmic split tyrosine kinase domain. Notably, the K642E substitution is encoded by a homozygous exon 13 missense mutation, and, therefore, GIST882 cells do not express native KIT. GIST882 c-KIT protein is constitutively tyrosine phosphorylated, but tyrosine phosphorylation was rapidly and completely abolished after incubating the cells with the selective tyrosine kinase inhibitor STI571. Furthermore, GIST882 cells evidenced decreased proliferation and the onset of apoptotic cell death after prolonged incubation with STI571. Similar results were obtained after administering STI571 to a primary GIST cell culture that expressed a c-KIT exon 11 juxtamembrane mutation (K558NP). These cell-culture-based studies support an important role for c-KIT signaling in GIST and suggest therapeutic potential for STI571 in patients afflicted by this chemoresistant tumor.