Interactions between tumors and host tissues play essential roles in tumor-induced systemic wasting and cancer cachexia, including muscle wasting and lipid loss. However, the pathogenic molecular mechanisms of wasting are still poorly understood. Using a fly model of tumor-induced organ wasting, we observed aberrant MEK activation in both tumors and host tissues of flies bearing gut-yki tumors. We found that host MEK activation results in muscle wasting and lipid loss, while tumor MEK activation is required for tumor growth. Strikingly, host MEK suppression alone is sufficient to abolish the wasting phenotypes without affecting tumor growth. We further uncovered that yki tumors produce the vein (vn) ligand to trigger autonomous Egfr/MEK-induced tumor growth and produce the PDGF- and VEGF-related factor 1 (Pvf1) ligand to non-autonomously activate host Pvr/MEK signaling and wasting. Altogether, our results demonstrate the essential roles and molecular mechanisms of differential MEK activation in tumor-induced host wasting.
MEK, a dual specificity threonine/tyrosine kinase, has been postulated to be a convergent point for signaling from receptor protein tyrosine kinases (RTKs) and G-protein-coupled receptors. In contrast to yeast and mammalian cells where several MEKs have been isolated, only one Drosophila MEK (D-Mek) has been characterized to date. Previous studies have shown that D-Mek acts in the Torso RTK signaling pathway. To demonstrate that D-Mek also operates downstream of other RTKs, we generated a temperature-sensitive allele of D-mek (D-mekts) by site-directed mutagenesis based on the amino acid change of a yeast cdc2ts mutation. Using D-mekts, we show that in addition to its role in Torso signaling, D-Mek operates in the Sevenless and in the Drosophila epidermal growth factor RTK pathways. Because loss-of-function mutations in D-mek and the upstream receptors give rise to similar phenotypes, it suggests that D-mek is the only MEK activated by Drosophila RTKs. In addition, we demonstrate that different RTK pathways respond differently to alteration in D-Mek activity.