Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Medical Sciences

Major Professor

Keiran S.M. Smalley, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Patricia P. Kruk, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Vrushank Dave, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Uwe Rix, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Anne Champeaux, Ph.D.


Amoeboid, Cdc42, PI3K, PI3K,


Acquired BRAF/MAPK/extracellular signal‒regulated kinase inhibitor resistance in melanoma results in a new transcriptional state associated with an increased risk of metastasis. In this study, we identified noncanonical ephrin receptor (Eph) EphA2 signaling as a driver of the resistance-associated metastatic state. We used mass spectrometry‒based proteomic and phenotypic assays to demonstrate that the expression of active noncanonical EphA2-S897E in melanoma cells led to a mesenchymal-to-amoeboid transition driven by Cdc42 activation. The induction of mesenchymal-to-amoeboid transition promoted melanoma cell invasion, survival under shear stress, adhesion to endothelial cells under continuous-flow conditions, increased permeability of endothelial cell monolayers, and stimulated melanoma transendothelial cell migration. In vivo, melanoma cells expressing EphA2-S897E or active Cdc42 showed superior lung retention after tail-vain injection. Analysis of BRAF inhibitor‒sensitive and ‒resistant melanoma cells demonstrated resistance to be associated with a mesenchymal-to-amoeboid transition switch, upregulation of Cdc42 activity, increased invasion, and transendothelial migration. The drug-resistant metastatic state was dependent on histone deacetylase 8 activity. Silencing of histone deacetylase 8 led to the inhibition of EphA2 and protein kinase B phosphorylation, reduced invasion, and impaired melanoma cell-endothelial cell interactions. In summary, we have demonstrated that the metastatic state associated with acquired BRAF inhibitor resistance is dependent on noncanonical EphA2 signaling, leading to increased melanoma-endothelial cell interactions and enhanced tumor dissemination.

Included in

Biology Commons