Targeting the DNA replication stress phenotype of KRAS mutant cancer cells

Sci Rep. 2021 Feb 11;11(1):3656. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-83142-y.


Mutant KRAS is a common tumor driver and frequently confers resistance to anti-cancer treatments such as radiation. DNA replication stress in these tumors may constitute a therapeutic liability but is poorly understood. Here, using single-molecule DNA fiber analysis, we first characterized baseline replication stress in a panel of unperturbed isogenic and non-isogenic cancer cell lines. Correlating with the observed enhanced replication stress we found increased levels of cytosolic double-stranded DNA in KRAS mutant compared to wild-type cells. Yet, despite this phenotype replication stress-inducing agents failed to selectively impact KRAS mutant cells, which were protected by CHK1. Similarly, most exogenous stressors studied did not differentially augment cytosolic DNA accumulation in KRAS mutant compared to wild-type cells. However, we found that proton radiation was able to slow fork progression and preferentially induce fork stalling in KRAS mutant cells. Proton treatment also partly reversed the radioresistance associated with mutant KRAS. The cellular effects of protons in the presence of KRAS mutation clearly contrasted that of other drugs affecting replication, highlighting the unique nature of the underlying DNA damage caused by protons. Taken together, our findings provide insight into the replication stress response associated with mutated KRAS, which may ultimately yield novel therapeutic opportunities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / radiation effects
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / radiation effects
  • DNA Damage / radiation effects
  • DNA Replication / genetics
  • DNA Replication / radiation effects*
  • Humans
  • Mutation / radiation effects
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / genetics*
  • Protons / adverse effects
  • Radiation Tolerance / genetics*
  • Single Molecule Imaging


  • KRAS protein, human
  • Protons
  • DNA
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)