Introduction: Loss of E-cadherin confers a poor prognosis in lung cancer patients and is associated with in vitro resistance to endothelial growth factor receptor inhibitors. Zinc finger E box-binding homeobox (ZEB)-1, the predominant transcriptional suppressor of E-cadherin in lung tumor lines, recruits histone deacetylases (HDACs) as co-repressors.
Methods: NSCLC cell lines were treated with HDAC inhibitors and analyzed for E-cadherin induction, growth inhibition and apoptosis. National Cancer Institute-H157 cells expressing ectopic E-cadherin were tested for tumorigenicity in murine xenografts.
Results: We found that treatment with MS-275, compared to vorinostat (SAHA), valproic acid or trichostatin A, was most effective in E-cadherin up-regulation and persistence in non-small cell lung cancers. As with other tumor types and HDAC inhibitors, MS-275 inhibited growth and induced apoptosis. Importantly, blocking E-cadherin induction by short hairpin RNA resulted in less inhibition by MS-275, implicating the epithelial to mesenchymal phenotype process as a contributing factor. In contrast to H460 and H661, H157 cells were resistant to E-cadherin up-regulation by HDAC inhibitors. However, E-cadherin was restored, in a synergistic manner, by combined knockdown of ZEB-1 and ZEB-2. In addition, H157 cells stably transfected with E-cadherin were markedly attenuated in their tumor forming ability. Lastly, combining MS-275 with the microtubule stabilizing agent, paclitaxel, or 17-(allylamino)-17-demethoxygeldanamycin, a heat shock protein 90 inhibitor, resulted in synergistic growth inhibition. Since MS-275 has no reported activity against HDAC6, which regulates both microtubule and heat shock protein 90 functions, other mechanisms of synergy are anticipated.
Conclusions: These results support the role of ZEB proteins and HDAC inhibitors in the pathogenesis and treatment of lung cancer.