Integrin-linked kinase (ILK) is a mediator of aggressive phenotype in pancreatic cancer. On the basis of our finding that knockdown of either KRAS or ILK has a reciprocal effect on the other's expression, we hypothesized the presence of an ILK-KRAS regulatory loop that enables pancreatic cancer cells to regulate KRAS expression. This study aimed to elucidate the mechanism by which this regulatory circuitry is regulated and to investigate the translational potential of targeting ILK to suppress oncogenic KRAS signaling in pancreatic cancer. Interplay between KRAS and ILK and the roles of E2F1, c-Myc and heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein as intermediary effectors in this feedback loop was interrogated by genetic manipulations through small interfering RNA/short hairpin RNA knockdown and ectopic expression, western blotting, PCR, promoter-luciferase reporter assays, chromatin immunoprecipitation and pull-down analyses. In vivo efficacy of ILK inhibition was evaluated in two murine xenograft models. Our data show that KRAS regulated the expression of ILK through E2F1-mediated transcriptional activation, which, in turn, controlled KRAS gene expression via hnRNPA1-mediated destabilization of the G-quadruplex on the KRAS promoter. Moreover, ILK inhibition blocked KRAS-driven epithelial-mesenchymal transition and growth factor-stimulated KRAS expression. The knockdown or pharmacological inhibition of ILK suppressed pancreatic tumor growth, in part, by suppressing KRAS signaling. These studies suggest that this KRAS-E2F1-ILK-hnRNPA1 regulatory loop enables pancreatic cancer cells to promote oncogenic KRAS signaling and to interact with the tumor microenvironment to promote aggressive phenotypes. This regulatory loop provides a mechanistic rationale for targeting ILK to suppress oncogenic KRAS signaling, which might foster new therapeutic strategies for pancreatic cancer.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research