Localization of active, dually phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2 in colorectal cancer with or without activating BRAF and KRAS mutations.

Human pathology (2016 Aug)
p. 37-46 issn:1532-8392)

Colorectal cancers (CRC) often show activating mutations of the KRAS or BRAF genes, which stimulate the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway, thus increasing cell proliferation and inhibiting apoptosis. However, immunohistochemical results on ERK activation in such tumors differ greatly. Recently, using a highly optimized immunohistochemical method, we obtained evidence that high levels of ERK activation in rectal adenocarcinomas were associated with resistance to radiochemotherapy. In order to determine whether KRAS and/or BRAF mutations correlate to immunohistochemically detectable increases in phosphorylation of ERK (pERK), we stained biopsies from 36 CRC patients with activating mutations in the BRAF gene (BRAFV600E: BRAF(m)), the KRAS gene (KRAS(m)) or in neither (BRAF/KRAS(n)) with this optimized method. Staining was scored in blind-coded specimens by two observers. Staining of stromal cells was used as a positive control. BRAF(m) or KRAS(m) tumors did not show higher staining scores than BRAF/KRAS(n) tumors. Although BRAFV600E staining occurred in over 90% of cancer cells in all 9 BRAF(m) tumors, 3 only showed staining for pERK in less than 10% of cancer cell nuclei. The same applied to 4 of the 14 KRAS(m) tumors. A phophorylation-insensitive antibody demonstrated that lack of pERK staining did not reflect defect expression of ERK1/2 protein. Thus, increased staining for pERK does not correlate to BRAF or KRAS mutations even with a highly optimized procedure. Further studies are required to determine whether this reflects differences in expression of counterregulatory molecules, including ERK phosphatases.

Forfattere: Holck S, Bonde J, Pedersen H, Petersen AA, Chaube A, Nielsen HJ, Larsson LI

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