Aurora kinase targeting in lung cancer reduces KRAS-induced transformation

Edmilson Ozorio dos Santos, Tatiana Lobo, Mateus Nobrega Aoki, Elena Levantini, Daniela Sanchez Bassères

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20 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Activating mutations in KRAS are prevalent in lung cancer and have been causally linked to the oncogenic process. However, therapies targeted to oncogenic RAS have been ineffective to date and identification of KRAS targets that impinge on the oncogenic phenotype is warranted. Based on published studies showing that mitotic kinases Aurora A (AURKA) and B (AURKB) cooperate with oncogenic RAS to promote malignant transformation and that AURKA phosphorylates RAS effector pathway components, the aim of this study was to investigate whether AURKA and AURKB are KRAS targets in lung cancer and whether targeting these kinases might be therapeutically beneficial. Methods: In order to determine whether oncogenic KRAS induces Aurora kinase expression, we used qPCR and western blotting in three different lung cell-based models of gain- or loss-of-function of KRAS. In order to determine the functional role of these kinases in KRAS-induced transformation, we generated KRAS-positive A549 and H358 cells with stable and inducible shRNA-mediated knockdown of AURKA or AURKB and evaluated transformation in vitro and tumor growth in vivo. In order to validate AURKA and/or AURKB as therapeutically relevant KRAS targets in lung cancer, we treated A549 and H358 cells, as well as two different lung cell based models of gain-of-function of KRAS with a dual Aurora kinase inhibitor and performed functional in vitro assays. Results: We determined that KRAS positively regulates AURKA and AURKB expression. Furthermore, in KRAS-positive H358 and A549 cell lines, inducible knockdown of AURKA or AURKB, as well as treatment with a dual AURKA/AURKB inhibitor, decreased growth, viability, proliferation, transformation, and induced apoptosis in vitro. In addition, inducible shRNA-mediated knockdown of AURKA in A549 cells decreased tumor growth in vivo. More importantly, dual pharmacological inhibiton of AURKA and AURKB reduced growth, viability, transformation, and induced apoptosis in vitro in an oncogenic KRAS-dependent manner, indicating that Aurora kinase inhibition therapy can specifically target KRAS-transformed cells. Conclusions: Our results support our hypothesis that Aurora kinases are important KRAS targets in lung cancer and suggest Aurora kinase inhibition as a novel approach for KRAS-induced lung cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
JournalMolecular Cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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