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Cervical carcinomas are initiated through a series of well-defined stages that rely on the expression of human papillomavirus (HPV) oncogenes. A panel of 100 small hairpin RNAs that target essential kinases in many tumor types was used to study the stepwise appearance of kinase requirements during cervical tumor development. Twenty-six kinases were commonly required in three cell lines derived from frank carcinomas, and each kinase requirement was traced to the specific stage in which the requirement emerged. Six kinases became required following HPV-induced immortalization, and the requirement for two kinases, SGK2 and PAK3, was mapped to the inactivation of p53 in primary human epithelial cells. Loss of the p53 tumor suppressor in other primary epithelial cells also induced dependence on SGK2 and PAK3. Hence, SGK2 and PAK3 provide important cellular functions following p53 inactivation, fulfilling the classical definition of synthetic lethality; loss of p53, SGK2, or PAK3 alone has little effect on cell viability, whereas loss of p53 together with either SGK2 or PAK3 loss leads to cell death. Whereas tumor suppressor gene mutations are not directly druggable, other proteins or pathways that become obligatory to cell viability following tumor suppressor loss provide theoretical targets for tumor suppressor-specific drug discovery efforts. The kinases SGK2 and PAK3 may thus represent such targets for p53-specific drug development.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





12463 - 12468


Carcinoma, Female, Genes, Tumor Suppressor, Genes, p53, Humans, Male, Papillomaviridae, Phosphotransferases, Protein Kinases, Proteins, Tumor Suppressor Protein p53, Uterine Cervical Neoplasms, p21-Activated Kinases