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Caspase-8 as a novel mediator linking Src kinase signaling to enhanced glioblastoma malignancy


Caspase-8 is a cysteine protease that plays an essential role in apoptosis. Consistently with its canonical proapoptotic function, cancer cells may genetically or epigenetically downregulate its expression. Unexpectedly, Caspase-8 is often retained in cancer, suggesting the presence of alternative mechanisms that may be exploited by cancer cells to their own benefit. In this regard, we reported that Src tyrosine kinase, which is aberrantly activated in many tumors, promotes Caspase-8 phosphorylation on Tyrosine 380 (Y380) preventing its full activation. Here, we investigated the significance of Caspase-8 expression and of its phosphorylation on Y380 in glioblastoma, a brain tumor where both Caspase-8 expression and Src activity are often aberrantly upregulated. Transcriptomic analyses identified inflammatory response as a major target of Caspase-8, and in particular, NFκB signaling as one of the most affected pathways. More importantly, we could show that Src-dependent phosphorylation of Caspase-8 on Y380 drives the assembly of a multiprotein complex that triggers NFκB activation, thereby inducing the expression of inflammatory and pro-angiogenic factors. Remarkably, phosphorylation on Y380 sustains neoangiogenesis and resistance to radiotherapy. In summary, our work identifies a novel interplay between Src kinase and Caspase-8 that allows cancer cells to hijack Caspase-8 to sustain tumor growth.

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Fig. 1: Unbiased transcriptome analysis reveals Caspase-8 dependent modulation of the inflammatory response in glioblastoma.
Fig. 2: Caspase-8 expression modulates NFκB independently of its enzymatic activity.
Fig. 3: Src activity sustains NFκB p65 nuclear localization and promotes its transcriptional activity.
Fig. 4: Src-dependent phosphorylation of Caspase-8 on Y380 contributes to recruitment of NFκB p65 to a multiprotein complex promoting its activation.
Fig. 5: Src-dependent phosphorylation of Caspase-8 on Y380 is required for the pro-angiogenesis activity of Caspase-8.
Fig. 6: Src-dependent phosphorylation of Caspase-8 on Y380 promotes glioblastoma cells resistance to ionizing radiation (IR).
Fig. 7: Schematic illustration of the role of Src-mediated phosphorylation of Caspase-8 on Y380 in glioblastoma.

Data availability

All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are present in the paper and/or the Supplementary Materials. Additional data related to this paper may be requested from the authors.


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We thank Maria Pia Gentileschi for kindly providing technical support for irradiation experiments and all the members of our lab for critical reading of the manuscript and for helpful discussion.


This work has been supported by research grants from Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro AIRC-IG2016-n.19069, AIRC-IG2021-n.26230, and Italian Ministry of Health, RF-2016-02362022 to DB; CCo work also been supported by AIRC-IG2016-n.19069 and AIRC-IG2021-n.26230, AF PhD fellowship was supported from MUR; MDM was supported by a FIRC-AIRC fellowship for Italy. The research leading to these results has received funding from AIRC under IG 2020 - ID. 24315 project – P.I. DDB; CCi has been supported by a FIRC-AIRC fellowship for Italy “Filomena Todini”. This work was also supported by United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants NS080939, NS116802, and CA258248 (FF).

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Authors and Affiliations



CCo performed most of the experiments, data analysis, interpretation and contributed to write the article; AF performed experiments with ionizing radiation; MDM performed angiogenesis studies; CCi performed cell death analysis experiments and qRT-PCR experiments; DDB designed angiogenesis studies; FDN performed the RNAseq experiments; MP, MF, FS performed bioinformatic analyses; GD and AC performed Luminex experiments; EV designed Luminex experiments; NK generated Caspase-8 lentiviral constructs; SM, DK conducted in vivo experiments; DS contributed to write the manuscript and to analyze the data; FF contributed to in vivo experimental design, data analysis and manuscript editing; DB designed the experiments, evaluated the data and wrote the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniela Barilà.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Ethics approval

All procedures involving mice handling and care conformed to protocols approved by the Regina Elena National Cancer Institute (Rome, Italy) in compliance with national (D.L. N.116, G.U., suppl. 40, 18-2-1992 and N. 26, G.U. March 4, 2014) and international (EEC Council Directive 2010/63/EU, OJ L 276/33, 22-09-2010; National Institutes of Health Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, US National Research Council, 2011) law and policies. The study was approved by the Italian Ministry of Health (approval number:342/2019-PR).

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Contadini, C., Ferri, A., Di Martile, M. et al. Caspase-8 as a novel mediator linking Src kinase signaling to enhanced glioblastoma malignancy. Cell Death Differ (2022).

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