Lung cancer resists radiation therapy, making it one of the deadliest forms of cancer. Here we show that human lung cancer cell lines can be rendered sensitive to ionizing radiation (IR) by RNAi knockdown of Cterminus of Hsc70-interacting protein (CHIP/STUB1), a U-box-type E3 ubiquitin ligase that targets a number of stress-induced proteins. Mechanistically ubiquitin-dependent degradation of the cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitor p21 protein is reduced by CHIP knockdown, leading to enhanced senescence of cells in response to exposure to IR. Cellular senescence and sensitivity to IR is prevented by CRISPR/Cas9-mediated deletion of the p21 gene (CDKN1A) in CHIP knockdown cells. Conversely, over-expression of CHIP potentiates p21 degradation and promotes greater radioresistance of lung cancer cells. In vitro and cell-based assays demonstrate that p21 is a novel and direct ubiquitylation substrate of CHIP that also requires the CHIP-associated chaperone heat shock protein 70 (HSP70). These data reveal that the inhibition of the E3 ubiquitin ligase CHIP promotes radiosensitivity; thus, suggesting a novel strategy for the treatment of lung cancer. Implications: The CHIP-HSP70-p21 ubiquitylation/degradation axis identified here could be exploited to enhance the efficacy of radiotherapy in patients with non-small cell lung cancer.
- Received December 14, 2016.
- Revision received January 31, 2017.
- Accepted February 6, 2017.
- Copyright ©2017, American Association for Cancer Research.