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The stress kinase MKK7 couples oncogenic stress to p53 stability and tumor suppression

Nature Genetics volume 43, pages 212219 (2011) | Download Citation


Most preneoplastic lesions are quiescent and do not progress to form overt tumors. It has been proposed that oncogenic stress activates the DNA damage response and the key tumor suppressor p53, which prohibits tumor growth. However, the molecular pathways by which cells sense a premalignant state in vivo are largely unknown. Here we report that tissue-specific inactivation of the stress signaling kinase MKK7 in KRasG12D-driven lung carcinomas and NeuT-driven mammary tumors markedly accelerates tumor onset and reduces overall survival. Mechanistically, MKK7 acts through the kinases JNK1 and JNK2, and this signaling pathway directly couples oncogenic and genotoxic stress to the stability of p53, which is required for cell cycle arrest and suppression of epithelial cancers. These results show that MKK7 functions as a major tumor suppressor in lung and mammary cancer in mouse and identify MKK7 as a vital molecular sensor to set a cellular anti-cancer barrier.

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We thank all members of our laboratories for discussions; H. Scheuch and M. Radolf for microarray support; and E. Wagner for reading the manuscript. D.S. is supported by the EU INFLA-CARE network. J.M.P. is supported by grants from IMBA, the Austrian Ministry of Sciences, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, GEN-AU (AustroMouse) and an EU ERC Advanced Grant. V.G.G. and A.K. are supported by the EU-grants INFLA-CARE and GENICA.

Author information


  1. Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA), Vienna, Austria.

    • Daniel Schramek
    • , Arabella Meixner
    • , Teiji Wada
    • , Ulrich Elling
    • , J Andrew Pospisilik
    • , Verena Sigl
    •  & Josef M Penninger
  2. Department of Histology and Embryology, School of Medicine, University of Athens, Athens, Greece.

    • Athanassios Kotsinas
    •  & Vassilis G Gorgoulis
  3. Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia.

    • G Gregory Neely
  4. Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Otto Wagner Hospital, Vienna, Austria.

    • Ralf-Harun Zwick
  5. Molecular Biotechnology Center, Department of Clinical and Biological Sciences, University of Turin, Turin, Italy.

    • Guido Forni
  6. Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), Madrid, Spain.

    • Manuel Serrano


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D.S. designed and performed most experiments. A.K. and V.G.G. performed the DNA damage and p53 immunohistochemistry and analysis. A.M. performed all RT-PCR analyses. T.W. generated the MKK7floxed mice. U.E. and V.S. helped with immunohistochemistry. R.-H.Z. analyzed the tumor section as the expert pathologist. J.A.P. and G.G.N. helped in microarray and gene set enrichment analysis. G.F. and M.S. contributed to the characterization of the ErbB-2 and Super p53 transgenic mice, respectively. J.M.P. coordinated the project and wrote the manuscript with D.S.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Josef M Penninger.

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