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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The kisspeptin and GPR54 ligand-receptor pair in autocrine and endocrine signalling in cancer Prentice, Leah Marie


Kisspeptins and their receptor, GPR54, mediate sex hormone release through stimulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis and have been implicated as metastasis suppressors. Expression of kisspeptin and GPR54 has been associated with less invasive cancers as determined by RNA expression, and a multitude of in vitro studies has consistently shown that overexpression of either ligand or receptor in malignant cell lines results in a less invasive phenotype. We hypothesized that expression of GPR54/kisspeptin in epithelial malignancies is predictive of disease outcome and altering endogenous GPR54 signalling in malignant breast and ovarian epithelial cells could alter their metastatic properties. We have determined by immunohistochemistry that kisspeptin and GPR54 are independent favourable prognostic markers for ovarian carcinoma and are specific for the clear cell cancer subtype; the least characterized of the subtypes. Additionally, loss of GPR54 is associated with poor prognosis in node positive breast cancer patients and is also lost in prostate cancer and testicular germ cell nonseminomas as compared to more benign disease. Moreover, secreted kisspeptin is elevated above physiological levels in the plasma of women with gynaecological cancers, including ovarian cancer. We evaluated GPR54 expression across a panel of breast and ovarian cancer cell lines to create an in vitro model system with which to knockdown GPR54 expression using RNA interference. However, we discovered that endogenous GPR54 was internalized rather than localized to the plasma membrane of these cancer cell lines. Consequently, internal GPR54 was unable to signal through its canonical Gαq pathway. To discover novel genes involved in kisspeptin-GPR54 signalling, we assessed gene expression differences between the Gpr54 and Kiss1 knockout mice as compared to wildtype mice. Our novel candidate list provides insight into physiological signalling in the hypothalamus that can then be applied to epithelial anti-metastatic signalling. Our results also support the sex hormone negative feedback effect on kisspeptin expression as reported in the current literature. In summary, we have confirmed kisspeptin and GPR54 as favourable prognostic markers, are the first to report the intracellular localization of GPR54 in endogenously expressing cancer cell lines, and we have introduced a list of novel genes involved in signalling.

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