Inhibition of Nuclear Pore Complex Formation Selectively Induces Cancer Cell Death

Cancer Discov. 2021 Jan;11(1):176-193. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-20-0581. Epub 2020 Sep 28.


Nuclear pore complexes (NPC) are the central mediators of nucleocytoplasmic transport. Increasing evidence shows that many cancer cells have increased numbers of NPCs and become addicted to the nuclear transport machinery. How reducing NPC numbers affects the physiology of normal and cancer cells and whether it could be exploited for cancer therapies has not been investigated. We report that inhibition of NPC formation, a process mostly restricted to proliferating cells, causes selective cancer cell death, prevents tumor growth, and induces tumor regression. Although cancer cells die in response to NPC assembly inhibition, normal cells undergo a reversible cell-cycle arrest that allows them to survive. Mechanistically, reducing NPC numbers results in multiple alterations contributing to cancer cell death, including abnormalities in nuclear transport, catastrophic alterations in gene expression, and the selective accumulation of DNA damage. Our findings uncover the NPC formation process as a novel targetable pathway in cancer cells. SIGNIFICANCE: Reducing NPC numbers in cancer cells induces death, prevents tumor growth, and results in tumor regression. Conversely, normal cells undergo a reversible cell-cycle arrest in response to inhibition of NPC assembly. These findings expose the potential of targeting NPC formation in cancer.This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus
  • Cell Death
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Nuclear Pore Complex Proteins / metabolism
  • Nuclear Pore* / metabolism


  • Nuclear Pore Complex Proteins