Oncogenic KRAS triggers MAPK-dependent errors in mitosis and MYC-dependent sensitivity to anti-mitotic agents

Sci Rep. 2016 Jul 14:6:29741. doi: 10.1038/srep29741.


Oncogenic KRAS induces cell proliferation and transformation, but little is known about its effects on cell division. Functional genetic screens have recently revealed that cancer cell lines expressing oncogenic KRAS are sensitive to interference with mitosis, but neither the mechanism nor the uniformity of anti-mitotic drug sensitivity connected with mutant KRAS expression are yet clear. Here, we report that acute expression of oncogenic KRAS in HeLa cells induces mitotic delay and defects in chromosome segregation through mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway activation and de-regulated expression of several mitosis-related genes. These anomalies are accompanied by increased sensitivity to anti-mitotic agents, a phenotype dependent on the transcription factor MYC and its downstream target anti-apoptotic protein BCL-XL. Unexpectedly, we find no correlation between KRAS mutational status or MYC expression levels and anti-mitotic drug sensitivity when surveying a large database of anti-cancer drug responses. However, we report that the co-existence of KRAS mutations and high MYC expression predicts anti-mitotic drug sensitivity. Our findings reveal a novel function of oncogenic KRAS in regulating accurate mitotic progression and suggest new avenues to therapeutically target KRAS-mutant tumours and stratify patients in ongoing clinical trials of anti-mitotic drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus / drug effects
  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Chromosome Segregation / drug effects
  • Chromosome Segregation / genetics
  • HCT116 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / genetics*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Mitosis / drug effects
  • Mitosis / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / metabolism
  • RNA Interference
  • Time-Lapse Imaging / methods


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • KRAS protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)