Colorectal tumors require NUAK1 for protection from oxidative stress

Jennifer L. F. Port, Nathiya Muthalagu, Meera Raja, Fatih Ceteci, Tiziana Monteverde, Bjorn Kruspig, Ann Hedley, Gabriela Kalna, Sergio Lilla, Lisa Neilson, Martina Brucoli, Katarina Gyuraszova, Jacqueline Tait-Mulder, Mokdad Mezna, Silvija Svambaryte, Amy Bryson, David Sumpton, Allan McVie, Colin Nixon, Martin DrysdaleHiroyasu Esumi, Graeme I. Murray, Owen J. Sansom, Sara Zanivan, Daniel J. Murphy

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Exploiting oxidative stress has recently emerged as a plausible strategy for treatment of human Cancer and anti-oxidant defences are implicated in resistance to chemo- and radiotherapy. Targeted suppression of anti-oxidant defences could thus broadly improve therapeutic outcomes. Here we identify the AMPK-related kinase NUAK1 as a key component of the anti-oxidant stress response pathway and reveal a specific requirement for this role of NUAK1 in colorectal cancer. We show that NUAK1 is activated by oxidative stress and that this activation is required to facilitate nuclear import of the anti-oxidant master regulator NRF2: Activation of NUAK1 coordinates PP1β inhibition with AKT activation in order to suppress GSK3β-dependent inhibition of NRF2 nuclear import. Deletion of NUAK1 suppresses formation of colorectal tumors, while acute depletion of NUAK1 induces regression of pre-existing autochthonous tumors. Importantly, elevated expression of NUAK1 in human colorectal cancer is associated with more aggressive disease and reduced overall survival.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-647
Number of pages15
JournalCancer Discovery
Issue number5
Early online date2 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

Bibliographical note

The authors wish to thank the staff of the CRUK Beatson Institute Biological Services Unit for animal husbandry and assistance with in vivo experiments; the staff of the CRUK BI Histology core facility and William Clark of the NGS core facility; David McGarry, Rene Jackstadt, Jiska Van der Reest, Justin Bower and Heather McKinnon for many helpful discussions, and countless colleagues
at the CRUK BI and Glasgow Institute of Cancer Sciences for support; Prem Premsrirut & Mirimus Inc. for design and generation of dox-inducible Nuak1 shRNA expressing mice Nathanael Gray for initial provision of NUAK1 inhibitors. Funding was provided by the University of Glasgow and the CRUK Beaton Institute. J.P. was supported by European Commission Marie Curie actions C.I.G.
618448 “SERPLUC” to D.J.M.; N.M. was supported through Worldwide Cancer (formerly AICR) grant 15-0279 to O.J.S. & D.J.M.; B.K. was funded through EC Marie Curie actions mobility award 705190 “NuSiCC”; T.M. was funded through British Lung Foundation grant APHD13-5. The laboratories of S.R.Z. (A12935), O.J.S. (A21139) and M.D. (A17096) are funded by Cancer Research UK. O.J.S. was additionally supported by European Research Council grant 311301 “ColoCan”.


  • NUAK1
  • ARK5
  • NRF2
  • oxidative stress
  • colorectal cancer
  • cancer therapy


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