JOURNAL ARTICLE

ZEB1 Mediates Acquired Resistance to the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor-Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Takeshi Yoshida, Lanxi Song, Yun Bai, Fumi Kinose, Jiannong Li, Kim C Ohaegbulam, Teresita Muñoz-Antonia, Xiaotao Qu, Steven Eschrich, Hidetaka Uramoto, Fumihiro Tanaka, Patrick Nasarre, Robert M Gemmill, Joëlle Roche, Harry A Drabkin, Eric B Haura
PloS One 2016, 11 (1): e0147344
26789630
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is one mechanism of acquired resistance to inhibitors of the epidermal growth factor receptor-tyrosine kinases (EGFR-TKIs) in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The precise mechanisms of EMT-related acquired resistance to EGFR-TKIs in NSCLC remain unclear. We generated erlotinib-resistant HCC4006 cells (HCC4006ER) by chronic exposure of EGFR-mutant HCC4006 cells to increasing concentrations of erlotinib. HCC4006ER cells acquired an EMT phenotype and activation of the TGF-β/SMAD pathway, while lacking both T790M secondary EGFR mutation and MET gene amplification. We employed gene expression microarrays in HCC4006 and HCC4006ER cells to better understand the mechanism of acquired EGFR-TKI resistance with EMT. At the mRNA level, ZEB1 (TCF8), a known regulator of EMT, was >20-fold higher in HCC4006ER cells than in HCC4006 cells, and increased ZEB1 protein level was also detected. Furthermore, numerous ZEB1 responsive genes, such as CDH1 (E-cadherin), ST14, and vimentin, were coordinately regulated along with increased ZEB1 in HCC4006ER cells. We also identified ZEB1 overexpression and an EMT phenotype in several NSCLC cells and human NSCLC samples with acquired EGFR-TKI resistance. Short-interfering RNA against ZEB1 reversed the EMT phenotype and, importantly, restored erlotinib sensitivity in HCC4006ER cells. The level of micro-RNA-200c, which can negatively regulate ZEB1, was significantly reduced in HCC4006ER cells. Our results suggest that increased ZEB1 can drive EMT-related acquired resistance to EGFR-TKIs in NSCLC. Attempts should be made to explore targeting ZEB1 to resensitize TKI-resistant tumors.

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