RNA-binding protein KHSRP promotes tumor growth and metastasis in non-small cell lung cancer

J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2019 Nov 27;38(1):478. doi: 10.1186/s13046-019-1479-2.


Background: KH-type splicing regulatory protein (KHSRP) plays an important role in cancer invasion, but the relevant mechanism is not well known. In the present study, we investigated the function and potential molecular mechanism of KHSRP in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) metastasis and elucidated its clinical significance.

Methods: Isobaric tags for relative and absolute quantitation and the SWATH™ approach were combined with nanoliquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry analysis to identify metastasis-associated nucleoproteins in NSCLC. Real-time PCR and Western blot were used to screen for metastasis-associated candidate molecules. Gene knockdown and overexpression were used to investigate their functions and molecular mechanisms in lung cancer cells. Coimmunoprecipitation (Co-IP) experiments were performed to identify the interactions between candidate molecules and their interacting proteins. Gene expression and its association with multiple clinicopathologic characteristics were analyzed by immunohistochemistry (IHC) and Western blot in human lung cancer specimens.

Results: KHSRP was identified as a metastasis-associated candidate molecule. In NSCLC cell lines, knockdown of KHSRP significantly reduced lung cancer cell proliferation, migration, and invasion in vitro and in vivo, whereas overexpression of KHSRP did the opposite. Mechanistically, the protein heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein C (C1/C2) (HNRNPC) was identified to interact with KHSRP using Co-IP experiments. In NSCLC cell lines, overexpression of HNRNPC significantly promoted lung cancer cell proliferation, migration, and invasion in vitro and in vivo. KHSRP and HNRNPC may induce human lung cancer cell invasion and metastasis by activating the IFN-α-JAK-STAT1 signaling pathway. Drastically higher expression levels of KHSRP and HNRNPC were observed in lung cancer tissues compared to those in adjacent noncancerous tissues. Increased KHSRP and HNRNPC expression was significantly associated with advanced tumor stages and metastasis (both lymph node and distant). Kaplan-Meier survival analysis showed that patients with high KHSRP and HNRNPC expression levels were predicted to have the shortest survival times and to have a poor prognosis.

Conclusions: KHSRP plays an important role in NSCLC metastasis and may serve as a potential prognostic marker and novel therapeutic target for lung cancer metastasis treatment.

Keywords: Growth; IFN-α-JAK-STAT1 signaling pathway; KHSRP; Metastasis; Non-small cell lung cancer.

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Female
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Heterogeneous-Nuclear Ribonucleoprotein Group C / genetics
  • Heterogeneous-Nuclear Ribonucleoprotein Group C / metabolism
  • Heterografts
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism*
  • Transfection


  • HNRNPC protein, human
  • Heterogeneous-Nuclear Ribonucleoprotein Group C
  • KHSRP protein, human
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Trans-Activators