Spleen tyrosine kinase functions as a tumor suppressor in melanoma cells by inducing senescence-like growth arrest

Bailet O, Fenouille N, Abbe P, Robert G, Rocchi S, Gonthier N, Denoyelle C, Ticchioni M, Ortonne JP, Ballotti R, Deckert M, Tartare-Deckert S

Cancer Res. 2009 Apr;69(7):2748-56


PMID: 19293188

Loss of tumor-suppressive pathways that control cellular senescence is a crucial step in malignant transformation. Spleen tyrosine kinase (Syk) is a cytoplasmic tyrosine kinase that has been recently implicated in tumor suppression of melanoma, a deadly skin cancer derived from pigment-producing melanocytes. However, the mechanism by which Syk suppresses melanoma growth remains unclear. Here, we report that reexpression of Syk in melanoma cells induces a p53-dependent expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase (cdk) inhibitor p21 and a senescence program. We first observed that Syk expression is lost in a subset of melanoma cell lines, primarily by DNA methylation-mediated gene silencing and restored after treatment with the demethylating agent 5-aza-2-deoxycytidine. We analyzed the significance of epigenetic inactivation of Syk and found that reintroduction of Syk in melanoma cells dramatically reduces clonogenic survival and three-dimensional tumor spheroid growth and invasion. Remarkably, melanoma cells reexpressing Syk display hallmarks of senescent cells, including reduction of proliferative activity and DNA synthesis, large and flattened morphology, senescence-associated beta-galactosidase activity, and heterochromatic foci. This phenotype is accompanied by hypophosphorylated retinoblastoma protein (Rb) and accumulation of p21, which depends on functional p53. Our results highlight a new role for Syk tyrosine kinase in regulating cellular senescence and identify Syk-mediated senescence as a novel tumor suppressor pathway the inactivation of which may contribute to melanoma tumorigenicity.