Research ArticleCancer

Synaptojanin 2 is a druggable mediator of metastasis and the gene is overexpressed and amplified in breast cancer

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Science Signaling  20 Jan 2015:
Vol. 8, Issue 360, pp. ra7
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2005537

Blocking Receptor Recycling to Prevent Metastasis

Blocking cancer cell metastasis can prolong patient survival. Ben-Chetrit et al. found that many patients with aggressive breast cancer have tumors with increased expression of SYNJ2, which encodes the lipid phosphatase synaptojanin 2. In cultured breast cancer cells, epidermal growth factor (EGF) triggered the localization of SYNJ2 to lamellipodia and invadopodia, which are cellular protrusions associated with invasive behavior. Knocking down SYNJ2 inhibited recycling of the EGF receptor to the cell surface and decreased the invasive behavior of cultured breast cancer cells. Expressing a phosphatase-deficient mutant of SYNJ2 in xenografted breast cancer cells suppressed tumor growth and lung metastasis in mice. A chemical screen identified SYNJ2 inhibitors that reduced cell invasion through a 3D matrix, suggesting that targeting SYNJ2 may prevent metastasis in breast cancer patients.


Amplified HER2, which encodes a member of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family, is a target of effective therapies against breast cancer. In search for similarly targetable genomic aberrations, we identified copy number gains in SYNJ2, which encodes the 5′-inositol lipid phosphatase synaptojanin 2, as well as overexpression in a small fraction of human breast tumors. Copy gain and overexpression correlated with shorter patient survival and a low abundance of the tumor suppressor microRNA miR-31. SYNJ2 promoted cell migration and invasion in culture and lung metastasis of breast tumor xenografts in mice. Knocking down SYNJ2 impaired the endocytic recycling of EGFR and the formation of cellular lamellipodia and invadopodia. Screening compound libraries identified SYNJ2-specific inhibitors that prevented cell migration but did not affect the related neural protein SYNJ1, suggesting that SYNJ2 is a potentially druggable target to block cancer cell migration.

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