Mast/stem cell growth factor receptor (SCFR), also known as proto-oncogene c-KIT or tyrosine-protein kinase KIT or CD117, is a receptor tyrosine kinaseprotein that in humans is encoded by the KITgene. Multiple transcript variants encoding different isoforms have been found for this gene.
KIT was first described by the German biochemist Axel Ullrich in 1987 as the cellular homolog of the feline sarcoma viral oncogene v-kit.
CD117 is a cytokine receptor expressed on the surface of hematopoietic stem cells as well as other cell types. Altered forms of this receptor may be associated with some types of cancer. CD117 is a receptor tyrosine kinase type III, which binds to stem cell factor (a substance that causes certain types of cells to grow), also known as "steel factor" or "c-kit ligand". When this receptor binds to stem cell factor (SCF) it forms a dimer that activates its intrinsic tyrosine kinase activity, that in turn phosphorylates and activates signal transduction molecules that propagate the signal in the cell. After activation, the receptor is ubiquitinated to mark it for transport to a lysosome and eventual destruction. Signaling through CD117 plays a role in cell survival, proliferation, and differentiation. For instance, CD117 signaling is required for melanocyte survival, and it is also involved in haematopoiesis and gametogenesis.
Like other members of the receptor tyrosine kinase III family, CD117 consists of an extracellular domain, a transmembrane domain, a juxtamembrane domain, and an intracellular tyrosine kinase domain. The extracellular domain is composed of five immunoglobulin-like domains, and the protein kinase domain is interrupted by a hydrophilic insert sequence of about 80 amino acids. The ligand stem cell factor binds via the second and third immmunoglobulin domains.
Hematopoietic progenitor cells are normally present in the blood at low levels. Mobilization is the process by which progenitors are made to migrate from the bone marrow into the bloodstream, thus increasing their numbers in the blood. Mobilization is used clinically as a source of hematopoietic stem cells for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Signaling through CD117 has been implicated in mobilization. At the current time, G-CSF is the main drug used for mobilization; it indirectly activates CD117. Plerixafor (an antagonist of CXCR4-SDF1) in combination with G-CSF, is also being used for mobilization of hematopoietic progenitor cells. Direct CD117 agonists are currently being developed as mobilization agents.
CD117 is a proto-oncogene, meaning that overexpression or mutations of this protein can lead to cancer. Seminomas, a subtype of testicular germ cell tumors, frequently have activating mutations in exon 17 of CD117. In addition, the gene encoding CD117 is frequently overexpressed and amplified in this tumor type, most commonly occurring as a single gene amplicon. Mutations of CD117 have also been implicated in leukemia, a cancer of hematopoietic progenitors, melanoma, mast cell disease, and gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs). The efficacy of imatinib (trade name Gleevec), a CD117 inhibitor, is determined by the mutation status of CD117:
When the mutation has occurred in exon 11 (as is the case many times in GISTs), the tumors are responsive to imatinib. However, if the mutation occurs in exon 17 (as is often the case in seminomas and leukemias), the receptor is not inhibited by imatinib. In those cases other inhibitors such as dasatinib and nilotinib can be used. Researchers investigated the dynamic behavior of wild type and mutant D816H KIT receptor, and emphasized the extended A-loop (EAL) region (805-850) by conducting computational analysis. Their atomic investigation of mutant KIT receptor which emphasized on the EAL region provided a better insight into the understanding of the sunitinib resistance mechanism of the KIT receptor and could help to discover new therapeutics for KIT-based resistant tumor cells in GIST therapy.
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