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MARCKS cooperates with NKAP to activate NF-kB signaling in smoke-related lung cancer


Rationale: Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for lung cancer development and progression; however, the mechanism of how cigarette smoke activates signaling pathways in promoting cancer malignancy remains to be established. Herein, we aimed to determine the contribution of a signaling protein, myristoylated alanine-rich C kinase substrate (MARCKS), in smoke-mediated lung cancer.

Methods: We firstly examined the levels of phosphorylated M ARCKS (phospho-M ARCKS) in smoke-exposed human lung cancer cells and specimens as well as non-human primate airway epithelium. Next, the MARCKS-interactome and its gene networks were identified. We also used genetic and pharmacological approaches to verify the functionality and molecular mechanism of smoke-induced phospho-M ARCKS.

Results: We observed that MARCKS becomes activated in airway epithelium and lung cancer cells in response to cigarette smoke. Functional proteomics revealed MARCKS protein directly binds to NF-κB-activating protein (NKAP). Following MARCKS phosphorylation at ser159 and ser163, the MARCKS-NKAP interaction was inhibited, leading to the activation of NF-κB signaling. In a screen of two cohorts of lung cancer patients, we confirmed that phospho-MARCKS is positively correlated with phospho-NF-κB (phospho-p65), and poor survival. Surprisingly, smoke-induced phospho-MARCKS upregulated the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, epithelial–mesenchymal transition, and stem-like properties. Conversely, targeting of MARCKS phosphorylation with MPS peptide, a specific MARCKS phosphorylation inhibitor, suppressed smoke-mediated NF-κB signaling activity, pro-inflammatory cytokines expression, aggressiveness and stemness of lung cancer cells.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that phospho-MARCKS is a novel NF-kB activator in smoke-mediated lung cancer progression and provide a promising molecular model for developing new anticancer strategies.

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Therapeutic targeting of argininosuccinate synthase 1 (ASS1)-deficient pulmonary fibrosis


Argininosuccinate synthase 1 (ASS1) serves as a critical enzyme in arginine biosynthesis; however, its role in interstitial lung diseases, particularly idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), re- mains largely unknown. This study aims at characterization and targeting of ASS1 deficiency in pulmonary fibrosis. We find that ASS1 was significantly decreased and inversely corre- lated with fibrotic status. Transcriptional downregulation of ASS1 was noted in fibroblastic foci of primary lung fibroblasts isolated from IPF patients. Genetic manipulations of ASS1 studies confirm that ASS1 expression inhibited fibroblast cell proliferation, migration, and invasion. We further show that the hepatocyte growth factor receptor (Met) receptor was acti- vated and acted upstream of the Src-STAT3 axis signaling in ASS1-knockdown fibroblasts. Interestingly, both arginine- free conditions and arginine deiminase treatment were demon- strated to kill fibrotic fibroblasts, attenuated bleomycin- induced pulmonary fibrosis in mice, as well as synergistically increased nintedanib efficacy. Our data suggest ASS1 deficiency as a druggable target and also provide a unique therapeutic strategy against pulmonary fibrosis.

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Targeting the insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor in MTAP-deficient renal cell carcinoma


Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) has emerged as a metabolic disease characterized by dysregulated expression of metabolic enzymes. Patients with metastatic RCC have an unusually poor prognosis and near-universal resistance to all current therapies. To improve RCC treatment and the survival rate of patients with RCC, there is an urgent need to reveal the mechanisms by which metabolic reprogramming regulates aberrant signaling and oncogenic progression. Through an integrated analysis of RCC metabolic pathways, we showed that methylthioadenosine phosphorylase (MTAP) and its substrate methylthioadenosine (MTA) are dysregulated in aggressive RCC. A decrease in MTAP expression was observed in RCC tissues and correlated with higher tumor grade and shorter overall survival. Genetic manipulation of MTAP demonstrated that MTAP expression inhibits the epithelial-mesenchymal transition, invasion and migration of RCC cells. Interestingly, we found a decrease in the protein methylation level with a concomitant increase in tyrosine phosphorylation after MTAP knockout. A phospho-kinase array screen identified the type 1 insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF1R) as the candidate with the highest upregulation in tyrosine phosphorylation in response to MTAP loss. We further demonstrated that IGF1R phosphorylation acts upstream of Src and STAT3 signaling in MTAP-knockout RCC cells. IGF1R suppression by a selective inhibitor of IGF1R, linsitinib, impaired the cell migration and invasion capability of MTAP-deleted cells. Surprisingly, an increase in linsitinib-mediated cytotoxicity occurred in RCC cells with MTAP deficiency. Our data suggest that IGF1R signaling is a driver pathway that contributes to the aggressive nature of MTAP-deleted RCC.

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