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Background: The cytoskeletal linker protein α-Catulin has been shown to be important for tumor progression in various cancers. However, its role in the regulation of cancer stemness remains unclear. Methods: Phenotypic effects of α-Catulin on the cancer stem cell (CSC)-like properties and metastasis were examined by in vitro sphere formation assay, migration assay, invasion assay, and in vivo xenografted animal models. Yeast two-hybrid assay, co-immunoprecipitation assay, and cycloheximide chase assay were performed to confirm the effect of α-Catulin on the WWP1-mediated degradation of KLF5. CPTAC and TCGA database were analyzed to determine the clinical association of α-Catulin, KLF5, and stemness-associated signatures in lung adenocarcinoma. Results: We report that α-Catulin increases cancer stem-like properties in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The expression of α-Catulin is elevated in tumor spheres compared to sphere-derived adherent cells and promotes the acquisition of cancer stemness characteristics in vitro and in vivo. Mechanistically, the interaction of α-Catulin and the C-terminal region of Kruppel-like transcription factor KLF5 results in the inhibition of WWP1-mediated degradation of KLF5. Accordingly, increased protein expression of KLF5 is observed in clinical specimens of lung adenocarcinoma with high expression of α-Catulin compared to specimens with low α-Catulin-expression. Knockdown of KLF5 abrogates α-Catulin-driven cancer stemness. α-Catulin is known to interact with integrin-linked kinase (ILK). Notably, an ILK inhibitor disrupts the α-Catulin-KLF5 interaction, promotes the degradation of KLF5, and decreases α-Catulin-driven cancer stemness. Importantly, we identify a CTNNAL1/ILK/KLF5 three-gene signature for predicting poor overall survival in patients with lung adenocarcinoma. Conclusions: These findings reveal a molecular basis of α-Catulin-enhanced KLF5 signaling and highlight a role for α-Catulin in promoting cancer stemness. © The author(s).


Chia-Hao Tung, Meng-Fan Huang, Chen-Hsien Liang, Yi-Ying Wu, Jia-En Wu, Cheng-Lung Hsu, Yuh-Ling Chen, Tse-Ming Hong. α-Catulin promotes cancer stemness by antagonizing WWP1-mediated KLF5 degradation in lung cancer. Theranostics. 2022;12(3):1173-1186

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PMID: 35154481

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