KRAS is frequently mutated in lung cancers and is associated with aggressive biology and chemotherapy resistance. Therefore, innovative approaches are needed to treat these lung cancers. Prior work implicated the interferon-stimulated gene 15 (ISG15) deubiquitinase (DUB) USP18 as having anti-neoplastic activity by regulating lung cancer growth and oncoprotein stability. This study demonstrates that USP18 affects the stability of the KRAS oncoprotein. Interestingly, loss of USP18 reduced KRAS expression and engineered gain of USP18 expression increased KRAS protein levels in lung cancer cells. Using the protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide (CHX), USP18 knockdown significantly reduced the half-life of KRAS, but gain of USP18 expression significantly increased its stability. Intriguingly, loss of USP18 altered KRAS subcellular localization by mislocalizing KRAS from the plasma membrane. To explore the biological consequences, immunohistochemical (IHC) expression profiles of USP18 were compared in lung cancers of KrasLA2/+ versus cyclin E engineered mouse models. USP18 expression was higher in Kras-driven murine lung cancers, indicating a link between KRAS and USP18 expression in vivo. To solidify this association, loss of Usp18 in KrasLA2/+/Usp18-/- mice was found to significantly reduce lung cancers as compared to parental KrasLA2/+ mice. Lastly, translational relevance was confirmed in a human lung cancer panel by showing USP18 IHC expression was significantly higher in KRAS mutant versus wild-type lung adenocarcinomas. Implications: Taken together, this study highlights a new way to combat the oncogenic consequences of activated KRAS in lung cancer by inhibiting the DUB USP18.
- Received October 21, 2016.
- Revision received January 26, 2017.
- Accepted February 21, 2017.
- Copyright ©2017, American Association for Cancer Research.