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Transl Oncol. 2016 Apr;9(2):89-98. doi: 10.1016/j.tranon.2016.01.006. Epub 2016 Mar 4.

Upregulation of RNA Processing Factors in Poorly Differentiated Lung Cancer Cells.

Author information

1
Pfizer Inc., Oncology-Rinat Research & Development, 401 N. Middletown Rd., Pearl River, NY 10965 USA.
2
Diaxonhit, 65 Boulevard Massena,75013 Paris France.
3
Pfizer Inc., Oncology-Rinat Research & Development, 401 N. Middletown Rd., Pearl River, NY 10965 USA. Electronic address: marc.damelin@pfizer.com.

Abstract

Intratumoral heterogeneity in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has been appreciated at the histological and cellular levels, but the association of less differentiated pathology with poor clinical outcome is not understood at the molecular level. Gene expression profiling of intact human tumors fails to reveal the molecular nature of functionally distinct epithelial cell subpopulations, in particular the tumor cells that fuel tumor growth, metastasis, and disease relapse. We generated primary serum-free cultures of NSCLC and then exposed them to conditions known to promote differentiation: the air-liquid interface (ALI) and serum. The transcriptional network of the primary cultures was associated with stem cells, indicating a poorly differentiated state, and worse overall survival of NSCLC patients. Strikingly, the overexpression of RNA splicing and processing factors was a prominent feature of the poorly differentiated cells and was also observed in clinical datasets. A genome-wide analysis of splice isoform expression revealed many alternative splicing events that were specific to the differentiation state of the cells, including an unexpectedly high frequency of events on chromosome 19. The poorly differentiated cells exhibited alternative splicing in many genes associated with tumor progression, as exemplified by the preferential expression of the short isoform of telomeric repeat-binding factor 1 (TERF1), also known as Pin2. Our findings demonstrate the utility of the ALI method for probing the molecular mechanisms that underlie NSCLC pathogenesis and provide novel insight into posttranscriptional mechanisms in poorly differentiated lung cancer cells.

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