Background: Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most heterogeneous and malignant subtype of breast cancer (BC). TNBC is defined by the absence of expression of estrogen, progesterone and HER2 receptors and lacks efficacious targeted therapies. NEK2 is an oncogenic kinase that is significantly upregulated in TNBC, thereby representing a promising therapeutic target. NEK2 localizes in the nucleus and promotes oncogenic splice variants in different cancer cells. Notably, alternative splicing (AS) dysregulation has recently emerged as a featuring trait of TNBC that contributes to its aggressive phenotype. Methods: To investigate whether NEK2 modulates TNBC transcriptome we performed RNA-sequencing analyses in a representative TNBC cell line (MDA-MB-231) and results were validated in multiple TNBC cell lines. Bioinformatics and functional analyses were carried out to elucidate the mechanism of splicing regulation by NEK2. Data from The Cancer Genome Atlas were mined to evaluate the potential of NEK2-sensitive exons as markers to identify the TNBC subtype and to assess their prognostic value. Results: Transcriptome analysis revealed a widespread impact of NEK2 on the transcriptome of TNBC cells, with 1830 AS events that are susceptible to its expression. NEK2 regulates the inclusion of cassette exons in splice variants that discriminate TNBC from other BC and that correlate with poor prognosis, suggesting that this kinase contributes to the TNBC-specific splicing program. NEK2 elicits its effects by modulating the expression of the splicing factor RBFOX2, a well-known regulator of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). Accordingly, NEK2 splicing-regulated genes are enriched in functional terms related to cell adhesion and contractile cytoskeleton and NEK2 depletion in mesenchymal TNBC cells induces phenotypic and molecular traits typical of epithelial cells. Remarkably, depletion of select NEK2-sensitive splice-variants that are prognostic in TNBC patients is sufficient to interfere with TNBC cell morphology and motility, suggesting that NEK2 orchestrates a pro-mesenchymal splicing program that modulates migratory and invasive properties of TNBC cells.

Naro, C., De Musso, M., Delle Monache, F., Panzeri, V., De La Grange, P., Sette, C., The oncogenic kinase NEK2 regulatesan RBFOX2-dependent pro-mesenchymalsplicing program in triple-negative breastcancer cells, <<JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL & CLINICAL CANCER RESEARCH>>, 2021; 2021 (40(1)): 397-416. [doi:10.1186/s13046-021-02210-3] [http://hdl.handle.net/10807/198000]

The oncogenic kinase NEK2 regulates an RBFOX2-dependent pro-mesenchymal splicing program in triple-negative breast cancer cells

Naro, Chiara
Primo
;
De Musso, Monica
Secondo
;
Panzeri, Valentina;Sette, Claudio
Ultimo
2021

Abstract

Background: Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most heterogeneous and malignant subtype of breast cancer (BC). TNBC is defined by the absence of expression of estrogen, progesterone and HER2 receptors and lacks efficacious targeted therapies. NEK2 is an oncogenic kinase that is significantly upregulated in TNBC, thereby representing a promising therapeutic target. NEK2 localizes in the nucleus and promotes oncogenic splice variants in different cancer cells. Notably, alternative splicing (AS) dysregulation has recently emerged as a featuring trait of TNBC that contributes to its aggressive phenotype. Methods: To investigate whether NEK2 modulates TNBC transcriptome we performed RNA-sequencing analyses in a representative TNBC cell line (MDA-MB-231) and results were validated in multiple TNBC cell lines. Bioinformatics and functional analyses were carried out to elucidate the mechanism of splicing regulation by NEK2. Data from The Cancer Genome Atlas were mined to evaluate the potential of NEK2-sensitive exons as markers to identify the TNBC subtype and to assess their prognostic value. Results: Transcriptome analysis revealed a widespread impact of NEK2 on the transcriptome of TNBC cells, with 1830 AS events that are susceptible to its expression. NEK2 regulates the inclusion of cassette exons in splice variants that discriminate TNBC from other BC and that correlate with poor prognosis, suggesting that this kinase contributes to the TNBC-specific splicing program. NEK2 elicits its effects by modulating the expression of the splicing factor RBFOX2, a well-known regulator of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). Accordingly, NEK2 splicing-regulated genes are enriched in functional terms related to cell adhesion and contractile cytoskeleton and NEK2 depletion in mesenchymal TNBC cells induces phenotypic and molecular traits typical of epithelial cells. Remarkably, depletion of select NEK2-sensitive splice-variants that are prognostic in TNBC patients is sufficient to interfere with TNBC cell morphology and motility, suggesting that NEK2 orchestrates a pro-mesenchymal splicing program that modulates migratory and invasive properties of TNBC cells.
Inglese
Naro, C., De Musso, M., Delle Monache, F., Panzeri, V., De La Grange, P., Sette, C., The oncogenic kinase NEK2 regulatesan RBFOX2-dependent pro-mesenchymalsplicing program in triple-negative breastcancer cells, <<JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL & CLINICAL CANCER RESEARCH>>, 2021; 2021 (40(1)): 397-416. [doi:10.1186/s13046-021-02210-3] [http://hdl.handle.net/10807/198000]
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