1. Department of Cardiovascular Surgery, The Second Xiangya Hospital of Central South University, Changsha, Hunan, China.
2. Clinical Center for Gene Diagnosis and Therapy, The Second Xiangya Hospital of Central South University, Changsha, Hunan, China.
3. Department of Radiology, The Third Xiangya Hospital of Central South University, Changsha, Hunan, China.
4. Department of Pathology, The Xiangya Hospital of Central South University, Changsha, Hunan, China.
*Equal contributions to this work.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is one of the deadliest cancers in the world. Metastasis is considered one of the leading causes of treatment failure and death in NSCLC patients. A crucial factor of promoting metastasis in epithelium-derived carcinoma has been considered as epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Rictor, one of the components of mTORC2, has been reportedly involved in EMT and metastasis of human malignancies. However, the regulatory mechanisms of Rictor, Rictor-mediated EMT and metastasis in cancers remain unknown. Our present study indicates that Rictor is highly expressed in human NSCLC cell lines and tissues and is regulated, at least partially, at the transcriptional level. Knockdown of Rictor expression causes phenotype alterations through EMT, which is accompanied by the impairment of migration and invasion ability in NSCLC cells. Additionally, we have cloned and identified the human Rictor core promoter for the first time and confirmed that transcription factor KLF4 directly binds to the Rictor promoter and transcriptionally upregulated Rictor expression. Knockdown of KLF4 results in Rictor's downregulation accompanied by a series of characteristic changes of mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET) and significantly decreases migration, invasion as well as metastasis of NSCLC cells. Re-introducing Rictor in KLF4-knockdown NSCLC cells partially reverses the epithelial phenotype to the mesenchymal phenotype and attenuates the inhibition of cell migration and invasion caused by KLF4 knocking down. Knockdown of KLF4 prevents mTOR/Rictor interaction and metastasis of NSCLC in vivo. The understanding of the regulator upstream of Rictor may provide an opportunity for the development of new inhibitors and the rational design of combination regimens based on different metastasis-related molecular targets and finally prevents cancer metastasis.
Keywords: Rictor, KLF4, EMT, metastasis, NSCLC