Receptor tyrosine kinase-like orphan receptor 1 (ROR1) is an oncoembryonic protein expressed on breast cancer, but not on virtually all normal adult tissues. Studies have found that high-level expression of ROR1 in tumors of breast cancer patients associated with enhanced cell growth, aggressive disease, and shorter overall survival compared to that of patients with tumors that had low expression of ROR1 (Zhang S., et al., PLOS ONE, 7(3): e31127, 2012). Analysis of ROR1-immune precipitates of primary breast cancer patient-derived-xenograft (PDX) lysates via immunoblot analyses revealed that ROR1 was associated with DOCK1 (Dedicator of Cytokinesis 1, also known as DOCK180) in breast cancer PDX tumors. DOCK1 is a member of the DOCK-A subfamily of guanine exchange factors (GEFs) specific for Rac1 that is expressed in breast cancer PDX tumors or cell lines. DOCK1 also contains a N-terminal SH3 domain. We found that ROR1 dissociated from DOCK1 in PDX cells cultured in serum-free medium, unless the cells were stimulated with exogenous Wnt5a. Wnt5a could induce ROR1 to complex with DOCK1 and cause activation of Rac1; this effect could be inhibited by silencing DOCK1 in PDX cells. Furthermore, these effects of Wnt5a on PDX cells also could be blocked by treatment of the PDX cells with cirmtuzumab, a humanized anti-ROR1 mAb, which is undergoing clinical evaluation in patients with cancer. We corroborated these findings using the breast cancer cell-line MCF7, which also expresses DOCK1, but does not express ROR1. MCF7 cells can be transduced to express ROR1 or various mutant forms of ROR1, allowing us to examine the structure-function relationships required for ROR1-DOCK1 interactions. We confirmed that DOCK1 complexes with ROR1 in response to Wnt5a in MCF7-ROR1 cells. We find that silencing DOCK1 specifically impaired the capacity of Wnt5a to enhance growth of MCF7-ROR1 cells in vitro. We generated truncated forms of ROR1 and found the cytoplastmic proline-rich domain (PRD) of ROR1 was required for ROR1 to complex with DOCK1 and activate Rac1 upon stimulation with Wnt5a. We next introduced single amino-acid substitutions of proline (P) to alanine (A) in the ROR1-PRD at positions 784, 808, 826, or 841 in potential SH3-binding sites. In contrast to wild-type ROR1, or other ROR1P->A mutants, ROR1P(808)A had impaired capacity to recruit DOCK1 to ROR1 in response to Wnt5a. Moreover, unlike MCF7 cells transfected with wild-type ROR1 or ROR1 with P->A substitutions at positions 784, 826, or 841, MCF7 cells transfected to express ROR1P(808)A did not have a growth advantage over that of MCF7 cells that do not express ROR1. This study reveals that the recruitment of DOCK1 may be critical for the capacity of Wnt5a to enhance breast cancer cell growth, which may contribute to the observed increased tendency for disease progression in breast cancer patients who have tumors that express high-levels of ROR1.

Citation Format: Md Kamrul Hasan, Victoria Tripple, George F. Widhopf, Suping Zhang, Barbara A. Parker, Thomas J. Kipps. Wnt5a induces ROR1 to associate with DOCK1 and promote growth of breast cancer cells [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2018; 2018 Apr 14-18; Chicago, IL. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2018;78(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 3492.