Eukaryotic elongation factor-2 kinase (eEF2K) signaling in tumor and microenvironment as a novel molecular target

Didem Karakas, Bulent Ozpolat

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Eukaryotic elongation factor-2 kinase (eEF2K), an atypical member of alpha-kinase family, is highly overexpressed in breast, pancreatic, brain, and lung cancers, and associated with poor survival in patients. eEF2K promotes cell proliferation, survival, and aggressive tumor characteristics, leading to tumor growth and progression. While initial studies indicated that eEF2K acts as a negative regulator of protein synthesis by suppressing peptide elongation phase, later studies demonstrated that it has multiple functions and promotes cell cycle, angiogenesis, migration, and invasion as well as induction of epithelial-mesenchymal transition through induction of integrin β1, SRC/FAK, PI3K/AKT, cyclin D1, VEGF, ZEB1, Snail, and MMP-2. Under stress conditions such as hypoxia and metabolic distress, eEF2K is activated by several signaling pathways and slows down protein synthesis and helping cells to save energy and survive. In vivo therapeutic targeting of eEF2K by genetic methods inhibits tumor growth in various tumor models, validating it as a potential molecular target. Recent studies suggest that eEF2K plays a role in tumor microenvironment cells by monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) and accumulation of tumor-associated macrophages. Due to its clinical significance and the pivotal role in tumorigenesis and progression, eEF2K is considered as an important therapeutic target in solid tumors. However, currently, there is no specific and potent inhibitor for translation into clinical studies. Here, we aim to systematically review current knowledge regarding eEF2K in tumor biology, microenvironment, and development of eEF2K targeted inhibitors and therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)775-787
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Molecular Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • eEF2K
  • Eukaryotic elongation factor-2 kinase
  • Gene regulation
  • Protein synthesis
  • Therapy
  • Tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Drug Discovery
  • Genetics(clinical)


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