The crossregulation between ERK and PI3K signaling pathways determines the tumoricidal efficacy of MEK inhibitor

Jae Kyung Won, Hee Won Yang, Sung Young Shin, Jong Hoon Lee, Won Do Heo, Kwang Hyun Cho

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61 Citations (Scopus)


MEK inhibitor has been highlighted as a promising anti-tumor drug but its effect has been reported as varying over a wide range depending on patho-physiological conditions. In this study, we employed a systems approach by combining biochemical experimentation with in silico simulations to investigate the resistance mechanism and functional consequences of MEK inhibitor. To this end, we have developed an extended integrative model of ERK and PI3K signaling pathways by considering the crosstalk between Ras and PI3K, and analyzed the resistance mechanism to the MEK inhibitor under various mutational conditions. We found that the phospho-Akt level under the Raf mutation was remarkably augmented by MEK inhibitor, while the phospho-ERK level was almost completely repressed. These results suggest that bypassing of the ERK signal to the PI3K signal causes the resistance to the MEK inhibitor in a complex oncogenic signaling network. We further investigated the underlying mechanism of the drug resistance and revealed that the MEK inhibitor disrupts the negative feedback loops from ERK to SOS and GAB1, but activates the positive feedback loop composed of GAB1, Ras, and PI3K, which induces the bypass of the ERK signal to the PI3K signal. Based on these core feedback circuits, we suggested promising candidates for combination therapy and examined the improved inhibitory effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-163
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Molecular Cell Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2012


  • biochemical control analysis
  • ERK pathway
  • mathematical model
  • MEK inhibitor
  • PI3K pathway
  • resistance
  • robustness
  • systems biology

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