Inhibition of Aurora Kinase A Induces Necroptosis in Pancreatic Carcinoma

Yangchun Xie, Shan Zhu, Meizuo Zhong, Manhua Yang, Xiaofan Sun, Jinbao Liu, Guido Kroemer, Michael Lotze, Herbert J. Zeh, Rui Kang, Daolin Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Background & Aims Induction of nonapoptotic cell death could be an approach to eliminate apoptosis-resistant tumors. We investigated necroptosis-based therapies in mouse models of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cancer (PDAC). Methods We screened 273 commercially available kinase inhibitors for cytotoxicity against a human PDAC cell line (PANC1). We evaluated the ability of the aurora kinase inhibitor CCT137690 to stimulate necroptosis in PDAC cell lines (PANC1, PANC2.03, CFPAC1, MiaPaCa2, BxPc3, and PANC02) and the HEK293 cell line, measuring loss of plasma membrane integrity, gain in cell volume, swollen organelles, and cytoplasmic vacuoles. We tested the effects of CCT137690 in colon formation assays, and the effects of the necroptosis (necrostatin-1 and necrosulfonamide), apoptosis, autophagy, and ferroptosis inhibitors. We derived cells from tumors that developed in Pdx1-Cre;K-RasG12D/+;p53R172H/+ (KPC) mice. Genes encoding proteins in cell death pathways were knocked out, knocked down, or expressed from transgenes in PDAC cell lines. Athymic nude or B6 mice were given subcutaneous injections of PDAC cells or tail-vein injections of KPC tumor cells. Mice were given CCT137690 (80 mg/kg) or vehicle and tumor growth was monitored; tumor tissues were collected and analyzed by immunohistochemistry. We compared gene expression levels between human pancreatic cancer tissues (n = 130) with patient survival times using the online R2 genomics analysis and visualization platform. Results CCT137690 induced necrosis-like death in PDAC cell lines and reduced colony formation; these effects required RIPK1, RIPK3, and MLKL, as well as inhibition of aurora kinase A (AURKA). AURKA interacted directly with RIPK1 and RIPK3 to reduce necrosome activation. AURKA-mediated phosphorylation of glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta (GSK3β) at serine 9 inhibited activation of the RIPK3 and MLKL necrosome. Mutations in AURKA (D274A) or GSK3β (S9A), or pharmacologic inhibitors of RIPK1 signaling via RIPK3 and MLKL, reduced the cytotoxic activity of CCT137690 in PDAC cells. Oral administration of CCT137690 induced necroptosis and immunogenic cell death in subcutaneous and orthotopic tumors in mice, and reduced tumor growth and tumor cell phosphorylation of AURKA and GSK3β. CCT137690 increased survival times of mice with orthotopic KPC PDACs and reduced tumor growth, stroma, and metastasis. Increased expression of AURKA and GSK3β mRNAs associated with shorter survival times of patients with pancreatic cancer. Conclusions We identified the aurora kinase inhibitor CCT137690 as an agent that induces necrosis-like death in PDAC cells, via RIPK1, RIPK3, and MLKL. CCT137690 slowed growth of orthotopic tumors from PDAC cells in mice, and expression of AURKA and GSK3β associate with patient survival times. AURKA might be targeted for treatment of pancreatic cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1429-1443.e5
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • ATP
  • Antitumor Immunity
  • HMGB1
  • Regulated Cell Death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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