|The oncogenic and growth-suppressive functions of the integrin-linked kinase are distinguished by JNK1 expression in human cancer cells.|
While most reports detail an oncogenic function for the integrin-linked kinase (ILK) in human cancer, few describe a contradictory growth-suppressive function. We previously reported that ILK functions as either a tumor suppressor or an oncogene in rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), in a manner linked to expression of the c-jun amino terminal kinase-1 (JNK1). However, studies in other tumors are lacking. With the advent of bioavailable small molecule inhibitors of ILK, defining both the function of ILK and biomarkers to predict its behaviour are of critical importance. Here, we studied the role of ILK in a panel of tumor cell lines. We demonstrate that ILK functions as either a growth-promoter or suppressor in numerous tumor cell lines. Further, cell lines in which ILK functioned as a growth suppressor displayed elevated JNK1 expression relative to cells in which ILK functioned as an oncogene. Comparison of endogenous JNK1 and JNK1β isoform expression levels to the cellular response to ILK overexpression demonstrated that JNK1β isoforms represent biomarkers differentiating the two functions of ILK. Moreover, RNAi and overexpression-based alteration of JNK1 expression levels was sufficient to switch the function of ILK in both transformed and untransformed cells. These results indicate widespread oncogenic and growth-suppressive functions for ILK in multiple human malignancies and suggest that JNK1 isoforms represent biomarkers for ILK neoplastic activity. These results provide a rationale for stratifying patients to receive ILK kinase inhibitors based on individualized tumor-specific ILK function.