Functional Genomic Analysis of CDK4 and CDK6 Gene Dependency across Human Cancer Cell Lines

Cancer Res. 2022 Jun 6;82(11):2171-2184. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-21-2428.


Cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (CDK4) and CDK6 are key cell-cycle regulators that are frequently dysregulated in human malignancies. CDK4/6 inhibitors are clinically approved for the treatment of hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative (HR+/HER2-) breast cancer, but improved specificity and reduced toxicity might expand their use to other indications. Through analysis of publicly available genome-wide loss-of-function data combined with single and dual-targeting CRISPR assays, we found differential cell proliferation vulnerability of cell lines to either CDK4 deletion alone, CDK6 deletion alone, combined CDK4/CDK6 deletion, or neither. CDK6 expression was the best single predictor of CDK4 (negatively correlated) and CDK6 (positively correlated) dependencies in the cancer cell lines, with adenocarcinoma cell lines being more sensitive to CDK4 deletion and hematologic and squamous cancer cell lines being more sensitive to CDK6 deletion. RB-E2F signaling was confirmed as a main downstream node of CDK4/6 in these experiments as shown by the survival effects of RB1 deletion. Finally, we show in a subset of cancer cell lines not dependent on CDK4/6 that CDK2-CCNE1 is an important alternative dependency for cell proliferation. Together, our comprehensive data exploration and functional experiments delineate the landscape of pan-cancer CDK4/6 gene dependencies and define unique cancer cell populations that might be sensitive to CDK4-selective or CDK6-selective inhibitors.

Significance: This study provides functional genomic insight toward understanding the scenarios in which cancer cells are differentially sensitive to CDK4 or CDK6 inhibition and their implications in current treatment strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 6
  • Female
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors* / pharmacology


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • CDK4 protein, human
  • CDK6 protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 6