The ADAM17 protease promotes tobacco smoke carcinogen-induced lung tumorigenesis

Mohamed I. Saad, Louise McLeod, Liang Yu, Hiromichi Ebi, Saleela Ruwanpura, Irit Sagi, Stefan Rose-John, Brendan J. Jenkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality, with most cases attributed to tobacco smoking, in which nicotine-derived nitrosamine ketone (NNK) is the most potent lung carcinogen. The ADAM17 protease is responsible for the ectodomain shedding of many pro-tumorigenic cytokines, growth factors and receptors, and therefore is an attractive target in cancer. However, the role of ADAM17 in promoting tobacco smoke carcinogen-induced lung carcinogenesis is unknown. The hypomorphic Adam17ex/ex mice-characterized by reduced global ADAM17 expression-were backcrossed onto the NNK-sensitive pseudo-A/J background. CRISPR-driven and inhibitor-based (GW280264X, and ADAM17 prodomain) ADAM17 targeting was employed in the human lung adenocarcinoma cell lines A549 and NCI-H23. Human lung cancer biopsies were also used for analyses. The Adam17ex/ex mice displayed marked protection against NNK-induced lung adenocarcinoma. Specifically, the number and size of lung lesions in NNK-treated pseudo-A/J Adam17ex/ex mice were significantly reduced compared with wild-type littermate controls. This was associated with lower proliferative index throughout the lung epithelium. ADAM17 targeting in A549 and NCI-H23 cells led to reduced proliferative and colonyforming capacities. Notably, among select ADAM17 substrates, ADAM17 deficiency abrogated shedding of the soluble IL-6 receptor (sIL-6R), which coincided with the blockade of sIL-6R-mediated trans-signaling via ERK MAPK cascade. Furthermore, NNK upregulated phosphorylation of p38 MAPK, whose pharmacological inhibition suppressed ADAM17 threonine phosphorylation. Importantly, ADAM17 threonine phosphorylation was significantly upregulated in human lung adenocarcinoma with smoking history compared with their cancer-free controls. Our study identifies the ADAM17/sIL-6R/ ERK MAPK axis as a candidate therapeutic strategy against tobacco smoke-associated lung carcinogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-538
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020

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