Oncogene. 2020 Sep;39(36):5876-5887. doi: 10.1038/s41388-020-01399-5. Epub 2020 Jul 29.
KRAS-mutant non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a major lung cancer subtype that leads to many cancer-related deaths worldwide. Although numerous studies on KRAS-mutant type NSCLC have been conducted, new oncogenic or tumor suppressive genes need to be detected because a large proportion of NSCLC patients does not respond to currently used therapeutics. Here, we show the tumor-promoting function of a cell cycle-related protein, PIERCE1, in KRAS-mutant NSCLC. Mechanistically, PIERCE1 depletion inhibits cell growth and AKT phosphorylation (pAKT) at S473, which is particularly observed in KRAS-mutant lung cancers. Analyses of AKT-related genes using microarray, immunoblotting, and real-time quantitative PCR indicated that PIERCE1 negatively regulates the gene expression of the AKT suppressor, TRIB3, through the CHOP pathway, which is a key regulatory pathway for TRIB3 expression. Similarly, in vivo analyses of PIERCE1 depletion in the KRAS mutation-related lung cancer mouse models revealed the suppressive effect of PIERCE1 knockout in urethane- and KRASG12D-induced lung tumorigenesis with decreased pAKT levels observed in the tumors. Tissue microarrays of human lung cancers indicated the expression of PIERCE1 in 83% of lung cancers and its correlation with pAKT expression. Thus, we illustrate how PIERCE1 depletion may serve as a therapeutic strategy against KRAS-mutant NSCLC and propose the clinical benefit of PIERCE1.