RS Al-Lamki, TJ Sadler, J Wang, MJ Reid, AY Warren, M Movassagh, W Lu, IG Mills, DE Neal, J Burge, P Vandenebeele, JS Pober, JR Bradley
Am J Pathol
Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC), a tubular epithelial cell (TEC) malignancy, frequently secretes tumor necrosis factor (TNF). TNF signals via two distinct receptors (TNFRs). TNFR1, expressed in normal kidney primarily on endothelial cells, activates apoptotic signaling kinase 1 and nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) and induces cell death, whereas TNFR2, inducibly expressed on endothelial cells and on TECs by injury, activates endothelial/epithelial tyrosine kinase (Etk), which trans-activates vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2) to promote cell proliferation. We investigated TNFR expression in clinical samples and function in short-term organ cultures of ccRCC tissue treated with wild-type TNF or specific muteins selective for TNFR1 (R1-TNF) or TNFR2 (R2-TNF). There is a significant increase in TNFR2 but not TNFR1 expression on malignant TECs that correlates with increasing malignant grade. In ccRCC organ cultures, R1-TNF increases TNFR1, activates apoptotic signaling kinase and NF-kappaB, and promotes apoptosis in malignant TECs. R2-TNF increases TNFR2, activates NF-kappaB, Etk, and VEGFR2 and increases entry into the cell cycle. Wild-type TNF induces both sets of responses. R2-TNF actions are blocked by pretreatment with a VEGFR2 kinase inhibitor. We conclude that TNF, acting through TNFR2, is an autocrine growth factor for ccRCC acting via Etk-VEGFR2 cross-talk, insights that may provide a more effective therapeutic approach to this disease.