Inhibition of DUSP6 sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents via regulation of ERK signaling response genes

Nicole E. James, Lindsey Beffa, Matthew T. Oliver, Ashley D. Borgstadt, Jenna B. Emerson, Clinton O. Chichester, Naohiro Yano, Richard N. Freiman, Paul A. DiSilvestro, Jennifer R. Ribeiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Dual specificity phosphatase 6 (DUSP6) is a protein phosphatase that deactivates extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK). Since the ovarian cancer biomarker human epididymis protein 4 (HE4) interacts with the ERK pathway, we sought to determine the relationship between DUSP6 and HE4 and elucidate DUSP6’s role in epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). Viability assays revealed a significant decrease in cell viability with pharmacological inhibition of DUSP6 using (E/Z)-BCI hydrochloride in ovarian cancer cells treated with carboplatin or paclitaxel, compared to treatment with either agent alone. Quantitative PCR was used to evaluate levels of ERK pathway response genes to BCI in combination with recombinant HE4 (rHE4), carboplatin, and paclitaxel. Expression of EGR1, a promoter of apoptosis, was higher in cells co-treated with BCI and paclitaxel or carboplatin than in cells treated with chemotherapeutic agents alone, while expression of the proto-oncogene c-JUN was decreased with co-treatment. The effect of BCI on the expression of these two genes opposed that of rHE4. Pathway focused quantitative PCR also revealed suppression of ERBB3 in cells co-treated with BCI plus carboplatin or paclitaxel. Finally, expression levels of DUSP6 in EOC tissue were evaluated by immunohistochemistry, revealing significantly increased levels of DUSP6 in serous EOC tissue compared to adjacent normal tissue. A positive correlation between HE4 and DUSP6 levels was determined by Spearman Rank correlation. In conclusion, DUSP6 inhibition sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents and alters gene expression of ERK response genes, suggesting that DUSP6 could plausibly function as a novel therapeutic target to reduce chemoresistance in EOC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3315-3327
Number of pages13
Issue number36
StatePublished - May 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Chemoresistance
  • DUSP6
  • ERK signaling
  • HE4
  • Ovarian cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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