Cellular signaling mediated by Notch receptors results in coordinated regulation of cell growth, survival, and differentiation. Aberrant Notch activation has been linked to a variety of human neoplasms. Here, we show that Notch1 signaling drives the vertical growth phase (VGP) of primary melanoma toward a more aggressive phenotype. Constitutive activation of Notch1 by ectopic expression of the Notch1 intracellular domain enables VGP primary melanoma cell lines to proliferate in a serum-independent and growth factor-independent manner in vitro and to grow more aggressively with metastatic activity in vivo. Notch1 activation also enhances tumor cell survival when cultured as three-dimensional spheroids. Such effects of Notch signaling are mediated by activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and Akt pathways. Both pathways are activated in melanoma cells following Notch1 pathway activation. Inhibition of either the MAPK or the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt pathway reverses the Notch1 signaling-induced tumor cell growth. Moreover, the growth-promoting effect of Notch1 depends on mastermind-like 1. We further showed that Notch1 activation increases tumor cell adhesion and up-regulates N-cadherin expression. Our data show regulation of MAPK/ PI3K-Akt pathway activities and expression of N-cadherin by the Notch pathway and provide a mechanistic basis for Notch signaling in the promotion of primary melanoma progression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research