Integrated High Throughput Analysis Identifies GSK3 as a Crucial Determinant of p53-Mediated Apoptosis in Lung Cancer Cells


p53 dysfunction is frequently observed in lung cancer. Although restoring the tumour suppressor function of p53 is recently approved as a putative strategy for combating cancers, the lack of understanding of the molecular mechanism underlying p53-mediated lung cancer suppression has limited the application of p53-based therapies in lung cancer.


Using RNA sequencing, we determined the transcriptional profile of human non-small cell lung carcinoma A549 cells after treatment with two p53-activating chemical compounds, nutlin and RITA, which could induce A549 cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, respectively. Bioinformatics analysis of genome-wide gene expression data showed that distinct transcription profiles were induced by nutlin and RITA and 66 pathways were differentially regulated by these two compounds. However, only two of these pathways, 'Adherens junction' and 'Axon guidance', were found to be synthetic lethal with p53 re-activation, as determined via integrated analysis of genome-wide gene expression profile and short hairpin RNA (shRNA) screening. Further functional protein association analysis of significantly regulated genes associated with these two synthetic lethal pathways indicated that GSK3 played a key role in p53-mediated A549 cell apoptosis, and then gene function study was performed, which revealed that GSK3 inhibition promoted p53-mediated A549 cell apoptosis in a p53 post-translational activity-dependent manner.


Our findings provide us with new insights regarding the mechanism by which p53 mediates A549 apoptosis and may cast light on the development of more efficient p53-based strategies for treating lung cancer.

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