KRAS is one of the most frequently mutated human oncogenes. In some settings, oncogenic KRAS can trigger cellular senescence, whereas in others it produces hyperproliferation. Elucidating the mechanisms regulating these 2 drastically distinct outcomes would help identify novel therapeutic approaches in RAS-driven cancers. Using a combination of functional genomics and mouse genetics, we identified a role for the transcription factor Wilms tumor 1 (WT1) as a critical regulator of senescence and proliferation downstream of oncogenic KRAS signaling. Deletion or suppression of Wt1 led to senescence of mouse primary cells expressing physiological levels of oncogenic Kras but had no effect on wild-type cells, and Wt1 loss decreased tumor burden in a mouse model of Kras-driven lung cancer. In human lung cancer cell lines dependent on oncogenic KRAS, WT1 loss decreased proliferation and induced senescence. Furthermore, WT1 inactivation defined a gene expression signature that was prognostic of survival only in lung cancer patients exhibiting evidence of oncogenic KRAS activation. These findings reveal an unexpected role for WT1 as a key regulator of the genetic network of oncogenic KRAS and provide important insight into the mechanisms that regulate proliferation or senescence in response to oncogenic signals.
Silvestre Vicent, Ron Chen, Leanne C. Sayles, Chenwei Lin, Randal G. Walker, Anna K. Gillespie, Aravind Subramanian, Gregory Hinkle, Xiaoping Yang, Sakina Saif, David E. Root, Vicki Huff, William C. Hahn, E. Alejandro Sweet-Cordero