NEK1 phosphorylation of YAP promotes its stabilization and transcriptional output

Md Imtiaz Khalil, Ishita Ghosh, Vibha Singh, Jing Chen, Haining Zhu, Arrigo De Benedetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Most prostate cancer (PCa) deaths result from progressive failure in standard androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), leading to metastatic castration-resistant PCa (mCRPC); however, the mechanism and key players leading to this are not fully understood. While studying the role of tousled-like kinase 1 (TLK1) and never in mitosis gene A (NIMA)-related kinase 1 (NEK1) in a DNA damage response (DDR)-mediated cell cycle arrest in LNCaP cells treated with bicalutamide, we uncovered that overexpression of wt-NEK1 resulted in a rapid conversion to androgen-independent (AI) growth, analogous to what has been observed when YAP1 is overexpressed. We now report that overexpression of wt-NEK1 results in accumulation of YAP1, suggesting the existence of a TLK1>NEK1>YAP1 axis that leads to adaptation to AI growth. Further, YAP1 is co-immunoprecipitated with NEK1. Importantly, NEK1 was able to phosphorylate YAP1 on six residues in vitro, which we believe are important for stabilization of the protein, possibly by increasing its interaction with transcriptional partners. In fact, knockout (KO) of NEK1 in NT1 PCa cells resulted in a parallel decrease of YAP1 level and reduced expression of typical YAP-regulated target genes. In terms of cancer potential implications, the expression of NEK1 and YAP1 proteins was found to be increased and correlated in several cancers. These include PCa stages according to Gleason score, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, and glioblastoma, suggesting that this co-regulation is imparted by increased YAP1 stability when NEK1 is overexpressed or activated by TLK1, and not through transcriptional co-expression. We propose that the TLK1>NEK1>YAP1 axis is a key determinant for cancer progression, particularly during the process of androgen-sensitive to-independent conversion during progression to mCRPC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3666
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • MS-determined phosphopeptides
  • NIMA-related kinase 1 (NEK1)
  • Thioridazine (THD)
  • Tousled-like kinase (TLK)
  • Yes-associated protein 1 (YAP1)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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