Background: Improved understanding of lung cancer development and progression, including insights from studies of animal models, are needed to combat this fatal disease. Previously, we found that mice with a knockout (KO) of G-protein coupled receptor 5A (Gprc5a) develop lung tumors after a long latent period (12 to 24 months).
Methodology/principal findings: To determine whether a tobacco carcinogen will enhance tumorigenesis in this model, we administered 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) i.p. to 2-months old Gprc5a-KO mice and sacrificed groups (n=5) of mice at 6, 9, 12, and 18 months later. Compared to control Gprc5a-KO mice, NNK-treated mice developed lung tumors at least 6 months earlier, exhibited 2- to 4-fold increased tumor incidence and multiplicity, and showed a dramatic increase in lesion size. A gene expression signature, NNK-ADC, of differentially expressed genes derived by transcriptome analysis of epithelial cell lines from normal lungs of Gprc5a-KO mice and from NNK-induced adenocarcinoma was highly similar to differential expression patterns observed between normal and tumorigenic human lung cells. The NNK-ADC expression signature also separated both mouse and human adenocarcinomas from adjacent normal lung tissues based on publicly available microarray datasets. A key feature of the signature, up-regulation of Ube2c, Mcm2, and Fen1, was validated in mouse normal lung and adenocarcinoma tissues and cells by immunohistochemistry and western blotting, respectively.
Conclusions/significance: Our findings demonstrate that lung tumorigenesis in the Gprc5a-KO mouse model is augmented by NNK and that gene expression changes induced by tobacco carcinogen(s) may be conserved between mouse and human lung epithelial cells. Further experimentation to prove the reliability of the Gprc5a knockout mouse model for the study of tobacco-induced lung carcinogenesis is warranted.