Tight regulation of signaling from receptor tyrosine kinases is required for normal cellular functions and uncontrolled signaling can lead to cancer. Fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) is a receptor tyrosine kinase that induces proliferation and migration. Deregulation of FGFR2 contributes to tumor progression and activating mutations in FGFR2 are found in several types of cancer. Here, we identified a negative feedback loop regulating FGFR2 signaling. FGFR2 stimulates the Ras/MAPK signaling pathway consisting of Ras-Raf-MEK1/2-ERK1/2. Inhibition of this pathway using a MEK1/2 inhibitor increased FGFR2 signaling. The putative ERK1/2 phosphorylation site at serine 780 (S780) in FGFR2 corresponds to serine 777 in FGFR1 which is directly phosphorylated by ERK1/2. Substitution of S780 in FGFR2 to an alanine also increased signaling. Truncated forms of FGFR2 lacking the C-terminal tail, including S780, have been identified in cancer and S780 has been found mutated to leucine in bladder cancer. Substituting S780 in FGFR2 with leucine increased FGFR2 signaling. Importantly, cells expressing these mutated versions of S780 migrated faster than cells expressing wild-type FGFR2. Thus, ERK1/2-mediated phosphorylation of S780 in FGFR2 constitutes a negative feedback loop and inactivation of this feedback loop in cancer cells causes hyperactivation of FGFR2 signaling, which may result in increased invasive properties.
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