Epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR TKIs) such as gefitinib are clinically effective treatments for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with EGFR activating mutations. However, therapeutic effect is ultimately limited by the development of acquired TKI resistance. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) represent a category of small non-coding RNAs commonly deregulated in human malignancies. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of miRNAs in gefitinib resistance. We established a gefitinib-resistant cell model (PC9GR) by continually exposing PC9 NSCLC cells to gefitinib for 6 months. MiRNA microarray screening revealed miR-138-5p showed the greatest downregulation in PC9GR cells. Re-expression of miR-138-5p was sufficient to sensitize PC9GR cells and another gefitinib-resistant NSCLC cell line, H1975, to gefitinib. Bioinformatics analysis and luciferase reporter assay showed that G protein-coupled receptor124 (GPR124) was a direct target of miR-138-5p. Experimental validation demonstrated that expression of GPR124 was suppressed by miR-138-5p on protein and mRNA levels in NSCLC cells. Furthermore, we observed an inverse correlation between the expression of miR-138-5p and GPR124 in lung adenocarcinoma specimens. Knockdown of GPR124 mimicked the effects of miR-138-5p on the sensitivity to gefitinib. Collectively, our results suggest that downregulation of miR-138-5p contributes to gefitinib resistance and that restoration of miR-138-5p or inhibition GPR124 might serve as potential therapeutic approach for overcoming NSCLC gefitinib resistance.
Keywords: G protein-coupled receptors; Gefitinib resistance; MicroRNA; Non-small cell lung cancer; Tyrosine kinase inhibitor.
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