Malignant melanoma is one of the most aggressive types of human cancers. Its ability to metastasize in
combination with its notorious resistance to conventional chemotherapeutical agents makes melanoma
extremely difficult to cure. Consequently, the median survival of patients with metastatic melanoma is only 8.5
months. The acquisition of invasion capability, which occurs already in primary melanomas, is a prerequisite
for metastasis and is considered a critical event associated with poor prognosis.
We have recently demonstrated that expression of guanosine monophosphate reductase (GMPR), an
enzyme involved in the de novo biosynthesis of purine nucleotides, was downregulated at the invasive stages
of human melanoma. Loss- and gain-of-function experiments revealed that GMPR suppresses the ability of
melanoma cells to form invadopodia, degrade extracellular matrix, invade (in vitro and in vivo), and grow as
tumor xenografts. We further demonstrated that depletion of guanosine monophosphate synthase (GMPS), a
functional antagonist of GMPR, decreases active (GTP-bound) RAC1, RHOA and RHOC. We hypothesized
that GMPS, GMPR, and perhaps other guanylate biosynthesis enzymes, regulate the activity of the above
RHO-GTPases via modulation of GTP levels in the vicinity of these RHO-GTPases. This hypothesis will be
tested in Specific Aim 1.
We demonstrated that the activity of GMPR can be regulated by phosphorylation. Unbiased in vitro kinase
screening identified several kinases as potential candidates for GMPR phosphorylation. Modulation of GTP
levels has never been considered as a mechanism of regulation of invasion by any kinase. Therefore, in
Specific Aim 2, using functional approaches, we will test candidates' ability to regulate GTP levels, RHO-
GTPase activity and cell invasion in a GMPR-dependent manner.
Currently, no efficient chemotherapy exists for melanoma patients with wildtype BRAF and mutant NRAS.
Survival of patients with mutant BRAF was improved by the introduction of its inhibitor vemurafenib (VEM),
however rapidly developing resistance circumvents VEM efficacy. Although the mechanisms of such resistance
vary, several melanoma cell lines independently selected for VEM resistance possessed increased invasion
ability. We demonstrated that several GTP-depleting agents can significantly affect melanoma xenograft
growth in immunocompromised and immunocompetent mice. Therefore, in Specific Aim 3, we will evaluate the
efficacy of one of such agents alone or in combination with existing anti-melanoma therapy in several
preclinical melanoma models.