FAM129B-dependent activation of NRF2 promotes an invasive phenotype in BRAF mutant melanoma cells

Cody J. Schmidlin, Wang Tian, Matthew Dodson, Eli Chapman, Donna D. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Incidence of melanoma continues to rise in the United States with ~100,000 new cases diagnosed in 2019. While the 5-year survival rate of melanoma is 99% when localized, the rate of survival drops to 22.5% when distant disease is detected. As such, an area of great interest is understanding the mechanisms that promote melanoma metastasis so that better potential therapeutic targets can be discovered. Herein, we demonstrate that activation of NRF2 by FAM129B contributes to increased metastatic potential of BRAF V600E mutant melanoma cells. Specifically, FAM129B induces NRF2 by competing for Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (KEAP1) binding (the negative regulator of NRF2) via an ETGE motif. Furthermore, we show that phosphorylation of FAM129B plays a role in mediating the interaction between FAM129B and KEAP1, as the phosphorylation status of FAM129B dictates its subcellular localization. When phosphorylated, FAM129B is found primarily in the cytosol where it can bind to KEAP1, but upon inhibition of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase activity, FAM129B is localized to the cell membrane and no longer interacts with KEAP1. In BRAF V600E mutant melanoma, the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway leads to hyperphosphorylation of FAM129B, and therefore FAM129B localizes to the cytosol, binds KEAP1, and upregulates NRF2. Importantly, genetic modulation or pharmacological inhibition that results in a decrease in FAM129B protein level or its phosphorylation decreases migration and invasion of mutant melanoma in an NRF2-dependent manner. Overall, these data indicate that phosphorylation of FAM129B plays a significant role in driving the metastatic potential of BRAF V600E melanoma via upregulation of the NRF2 signaling pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-341
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Carcinogenesis
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • FAM129B
  • KEAP1
  • NRF2
  • melanoma
  • metastasis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


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