RSK2 phosphorylates T-bet to attenuate colon cancer metastasis and growth

Ke Yao, Cong Peng, Yuwen Zhang, Tatyana A. Zykova, Mee Hyun Lee, Sung Young Lee, Enyu Rao, Hanyong Chen, Joohyun Ryu, Lei Wang, Yi Zhang, Ge Gao, Wei He, Wei Ya Ma, Kangdong Liu, Ann M. Bode, Ziming Dong, Bing Li, Zigang Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Metastasis is a major cause of cancer-related deaths. Approximately 80% of patients with colorectal cancer develop liver metastasis and 20% develop lung metastasis. We found that at different stages of colon cancer, IFNγ secretion from peripheral blood mononuclear cells was decreased compared with healthy controls. The ribosomal S6 kinase (RSK) family of kinases has multiple cellular functions, and we examined their roles in this observed IFNγ decrease. Flow cytometry analysis of wild-type (WT) and RSK2 knockout (KO) mice revealed significantly lower levels of IFNγ in the RSK2 KO mice compared with the WT mice. Since IFNγ is a component of immunity, which contributes to protection against metastatic carcinomas, we conducted a colon cancer liver metastasis experiment. We found significantly greater metastasis in RSK2 KO mice compared with WT mice. Transcription factor T-bet can directly activate Ifnγ gene transcription. In vitro kinase assay results showed that RSK2 phosphorylated T-bet at serines 498 and 502. We show that phosphorylation of T-bet by RSK2 is required for IFNγ expression, because knockdown of RSK2 expression or overexpression of mutant T-bet reduces IFNγ mRNA expression. To verify the function of the phosphorylation sites, we overexpressed a constitutively active mutant T-bet (S498E/S502E) in bone marrow. Mutant T-bet restored the IFNγ mRNA levels and dramatically reduced the metastasis rate in these mice. Overall, these results indicate that phosphorylation of T-bet is required for the inhibition of colon cancer metastasis and growth through a positive regulation of RSK2/T-bet/IFNγ signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12791-12796
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number48
StatePublished - Nov 28 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. We thank Dr. Rebecca Morris and Kelly Johnson for assisting with the bone marrow transplant assay, Drs. Dan Li, Xuejiao Liu, Haitao Li, Young Jin Jeon, and Do Young Lim and Todd Schuster for supporting experiments; and Dr. Tia Rai and Nicki Brickman for assistance with manuscript submission. This work was supported by The Hormel Foundation; National Institutes of Health (Grants CA166001, CA172457, CA196639, and CA187027, to Zigang Dong), and the National Science Foundation of Henan Province, China (Grant 162300410337).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.


  • Growth
  • IFN gamma
  • Metastasis
  • RSK2
  • T-bet

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