Unfolded Protein Response Is Activated by Aurora Kinase A in Esophageal Adenocarcinoma

Heng Lu, Ahmed Gomaa, Lihong Wang-Bishop, Farah Ballout, Tianling Hu, Oliver McDonald, Mary Kay Washington, Alan S. Livingstone, Timothy C. Wang, Dunfa Peng, Wael El-Rifai, Zheng Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Unfolded protein response (UPR) protects malignant cells from endoplasmic reticulum stress-induced apoptosis. We report that Aurora kinase A (AURKA) promotes cancer cell survival by activating UPR in esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC). A strong positive correlation between AURKA and binding immunoglobulin protein (BIP) mRNA expression levels was found in EACs. The in vitro assays indicated that AURKA promoted IRE1α protein phosphorylation, activating prosurvival UPR in FLO-1 and OE33 cells. The use of acidic bile salts to mimic reflux conditions in patients induced high AURKA and IRE1α levels. This induction was abrogated by AURKA knockdown in EAC cells. AURKA and p-IRE1α protein colocalization was observed in neoplastic gastroesophageal lesions of the L2-IL1b mouse model of Barrett’s esophageal neoplasia. The combined treatment using AURKA inhibitor and tunicamycin synergistically induced cancer cell death. The use of alisertib for AURKA inhibition in the EAC xenograft model led to a decrease in IRE1α phosphorylation with a significant reduction in tumor growth. These results indicate that AURKA activates UPR, promoting cancer cell survival during ER stress in EAC. Targeting AURKA can significantly reverse prosurvival UPR signaling mechanisms and decrease cancer cell survival, providing a promising approach for the treatment of EAC patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1401
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Drug resistance
  • ER stress
  • Esophageal adenocarcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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