CUL4high Lung Adenocarcinomas Are Dependent on the CUL4-p21 Ubiquitin Signaling for Proliferation and Survival

Yannan Wang, Fan Yan, Abu Nasar, Zhe Sheng Chen, Nasser Khaled Altorki, Brendon Stiles, Navneet Narula, Pengbo Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cullin (CUL) 4A and 4B ubiquitin ligases are often highly accumulated in human malignant neoplasms and are believed to possess oncogenic properties. However, the underlying mechanisms by which CUL4A and CUL4B promote pulmonary tumorigenesis remain largely elusive. This study reports that CUL4A and CUL4B are highly expressed in patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and their high expression is associated with disease progression, chemotherapy resistance, and poor survival in adenocarcinomas. Depletion of CUL4A (CUL4Ak/d) or CUL4B (CUL4Bk/d) leads to cell cycle arrest at G1 and loss of proliferation and viability of NSCLC cells in culture and in a lung cancer xenograft model, suggesting that CUL4A and 4B are oncoproteins required for tumor maintenance of certain NSCLCs. Mechanistically, increased accumulation of the cell cycle–dependent kinase inhibitor p21/Cip1/WAF1 was observed in lung cancer cells on CUL4 silencing. Knockdown of p21 rescued the G1 arrest of CUL4Ak/d or CUL4Bk/d NSCLC cells, and allowed proliferation to resume. These findings reveal that p21 is the primary downstream effector of lung adenocarcinoma dependence on CUL4, highlight the notion that not all substrates respond equally to abrogation of the CUL4 ubiquitin ligase in NSCLCs, and imply that CUL4Ahigh/CUL4Bhigh may serve as a prognostic marker and therapeutic target for patients with NSCLC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1638-1650
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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