Colorectal cancer, along with its high potential for recurrence and metastasis, is a major health burden. Uncovering proteins and pathways required for tumor cell growth is necessary for the development of novel targeted therapies. Ajuba is a member of the LIM domain family of proteins whose expression is positively associated with numerous cancers. Our data shows that Ajuba is highly expressed in human colon cancer tissue and cell lines. Publicly available data from The Cancer Genome Atlas shows a negative correlation between survival and Ajuba expression in patients with colon cancer. To investigate its function, we transduced SW480 human colon cancer cells, with lentiviral constructs to knockdown or overexpress Ajuba protein. The transcriptome of the modified cell lines was analyzed by RNA sequencing. Among the pathways enriched in the differentially expressed genes, were cell proliferation, migration and differentiation. We confirmed our sequencing data with biological assays; cells depleted of Ajuba were less proliferative, more sensitive to irradiation, migrated less and were less efficient in colony formation. In addition, loss of Ajuba expression decreased the tumor burden in a murine model of colorectal metastasis to the liver. Taken together, our data supports that Ajuba promotes colon cancer growth, migration and metastasis and therefore is a potential candidate for targeted therapy.
Keywords: Ajuba; cell differentiation; metastasis; proliferation.