Background: Renal cell carcinoma with rhabdoid features (RCC-RF) is an aggressive histologic variant in the adults and is usually unresponsive to standard chemotherapy. Methods: Expression of SMARCB1/INI1 was examined in primary RCC-RF (n = 5). Stable INI1 with/without prostaglandin E2 receptor 1 (EP1) knockdown cell lines were created in the ACHN and 786-O RCC cell lines and measured for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-related signaling pathways. Chemosensitivity to targeted drugs in vitro was tested after knocking down of INI1 in both cell lines. The outcome of co-targeting of INI1 and EP1 in RCC was examined using a tumorigenicity assay. Results: Expression of INI1 was markedly reduced at both transcriptional and translational levels in primary RCC-RF. Immunohistochemical expression of INI1 protein was lost in the nuclei of rhabdoid cells compared with conventional RCC (n = 8). Using two cell lines with different genetic background, we showed that knocking down of INI1 activates the EGFR signaling with up-regulated AKT and ERK pathways and sensitizes cancer cells to Erlotinib treatment in vitro. However, cell-line dependent effects were also demonstrated with reference to impact of INI1 or EP1 on cell growth, migration and response to Gefitinib or Everolimus treatment in vitro. Conclusion: Inactivation of INI1 may play a role in the pathogenesis of RCC-RF. Erlotinib is recommended in the management of patients with INI1-related RCC.
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