Mutation-specific effects of NRAS oncogenes in colorectal cancer cells

Adv Biol Regul. 2021 Jan:79:100778. doi: 10.1016/j.jbior.2020.100778. Epub 2020 Dec 31.


In colorectal cancer (CRC), the prevalence of NRAS mutations (5-9%) is inferior to that of KRAS mutations (40-50%). NRAS mutations feature lately during tumour progression and drive resistance to anti-EGFR therapy in KRAS wild-type tumours. To elucidate specific functions of NRAS mutations in CRC, we expressed doxycycline-inducible G12D and Q61K mutations in the CRC cell line Caco-2. A focused phospho-proteome analysis based on the Bio-Plex platform, which interrogated the activity of MAPK, PI3K, mTOR, STAT, p38, JNK and ATF2, did not reveal significant differences between Caco-2 cells expressing NRASG12D, NRASQ61K and KRASG12V. However, phenotypic read-outs were different. The NRAS Q61K mutation promoted anchorage-independent proliferation and tumorigenicity, similar to features driven by canonical KRAS mutations. In contrast, expression of NRASG12D resulted in reduced proliferation and apoptosis. At the transcriptome level, we saw upregulation of cytokines and chemokines. IL1A, IL11, CXCL8 (IL-8) and CCL20 exhibited enhanced secretion into the culture medium. In addition, RNA sequencing results indicated activation of the IL1-, JAK/STAT-, NFκB- and TNFα signalling pathways. These results form the basis for an NRASG12D-driven inflammatory phenotype in CRC.

Keywords: Inflammation; Interleukins; Protein multiplex analysis; RAS-Responsive genes; Signal transduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Chemokines / genetics
  • Chemokines / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases / genetics*
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Oncogenes
  • Signal Transduction


  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Membrane Proteins
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases
  • NRAS protein, human