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Oncogenic fusion protein FGFR2-PPHLN1: Requirements for biological activation, and efficacy of inhibitors


Aim of study

Chromosomal translocations such as t(10;12)(q26,q12) are associated with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, a universally fatal category of liver cancer. This translocation creates the oncogenic fusion protein of Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor 2 joined to Periphilin 1. The aims of this study were to identify significant features required for biological activation, analyze the activation of downstream signaling pathways, and examine the efficacy of the TKIs BGJ398 and TAS-120, and of the MEK inhibitor Trametinib.


These studies examined FGFR2-PPHLN1 proteins containing a kinase-dead, kinase-activated, or WT kinase domain in comparison with analogous FGFR2 proteins. Biological activity was assayed using soft agar colony formation in epithelial RIE-1 cells and focus assays in NIH3T3 cells. The MAPK/ERK, JAK/STAT3 and PI3K/AKT signaling pathways were examined for activation. Membrane association was analyzed by indirect immunofluorescence comparing proteins altered by deletion of the signal peptide, or by addition of a myristylation signal.


Biological activity of FGFR2-PPHLN1 required an active FGFR2-derived tyrosine kinase domain, and a dimerization domain contributed by PPHLN1. Strong activation of canonical MAPK/ERK, JAK/STAT3 and PI3K/AKT signaling pathways was observed. The efficacy of the tyrosine kinase inhibitors BGJ398 and TAS-120 was examined individually and combinatorially with the MEK inhibitor Trametinib; heterogeneous responses were observed in a mutation-specific manner. A requirement for membrane localization of the fusion protein was also demonstrated.

Concluding statement

Our study collectively demonstrates the potent transforming potential of FGFR2-PPHLN1 in driving cellular proliferation. We discuss the importance of sequencing-based, mutation-specific personalized therapeutics in treating FGFR2 fusion-positive intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma.

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