Protein tyrosine kinase 7 (PTK7), also known as colon carcinoma kinase 4 (CCK-4), is a member of the catalytically defective receptor protein tyrosine kinase family and is upregulated in various cancers, where it is known to act as either an oncoprotein or a tumor suppressor. To understand the contrasting roles of PTK7 in tumorigenesis, we analyzed the tumorigenic characteristics of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) cells with low levels of endogenous PTK7 expression (TE-5 and TE-14 cells) and high levels of expression (TE-6 and TE-10 cells) after transfections with a PTK7 expression vector. PTK7 overexpression increased the proliferation of TE-5 and TE-14 cells but decreased the proliferation of TE-6 and TE-10 cells. In the ESCC cells, proliferation, migration, and invasion were initially increased and then decreased according to PTK7 expression levels, which were mirrored by initial increases and then decreases in the tyrosine phosphorylation of cellular proteins and phosphorylation of Src, Akt, and ERK. In ESCC patients included in The Cancer Genome Atlas database, those with higher PTK7 mRNA levels had a longer overall survival and lower relative risk than those with lower PTK7 mRNA levels. These results demonstrate that PTK7 biphasically regulates tumorigenesis in ESCC.
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