TFEB-mediated lysosomal biogenesis and lysosomal drug sequestration confer resistance to MEK inhibition in pancreatic cancer

Oncogenic KRAS mutations are encountered in more than 90% of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas. MEK inhibition has failed to procure any clinical benefits in mutant RAS-driven cancers including pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). To identify potential resistance mechanisms underlying MEK inhibitor (MEKi) resistance in PDAC, we investigated lysosomal drug accumulation in PDAC models both in vitro and in vivo. Mouse PDAC models and human PDAC cell lines as well as human PDAC xenografts treated with the MEK inhibitor trametinib or refametinib led to an enhanced expression of lysosomal markers and enrichment of lysosomal gene sets. A time-dependent, increase in lysosomal content was observed upon MEK inhibition. Strikingly, there was a strong activation of lysosomal biogenesis in cell lines of the classical compared to the basal-like molecular subtype. Increase in lysosomal content was associated with nuclear translocation of the Transcription Factor EB (TFEB) and upregulation of TFEB target genes. siRNA-mediated depletion of TFEB led to a decreased lysosomal biogenesis upon MEK inhibition and potentiated sensitivity. Using LC-MS, we show accumulation of MEKi in the lysosomes of treated cells. Therefore, MEK inhibition triggers lysosomal biogenesis and subsequent drug sequestration. Combined targeting of MEK and lysosomal function may improve sensitivity to MEK inhibition in PDAC.

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S2673 Trametinib (GSK1120212) Trametinib (GSK1120212) is a highly specific and potent MEK1/2 inhibitor with IC50 of 0.92 nM/1.8 nM in cell-free assays, no inhibition of the kinase activities of c-Raf, B-Raf, ERK1/2. Trametinib activates autophagy and induces apoptosis. (847) (12)

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