Twist1 suppresses senescence programs and thereby accelerates and maintains mutant Kras-induced lung tumorigenesis

Phuoc T. Tran, Emelyn H. Shroff, Timothy F. Burns, Saravanan Thiyagarajan, Sandhya T. Das, Tahera Zabuawala, Joy Chen, Yoon Jae Cho, Richard Luong, Pablo Tamayo, Tarek Salih, Khaled Aziz, Stacey J. Adam, Silvestre Vicent, Carsten H. Nielsen, Nadia Withofs, Alejandro Sweet-Cordero, Sanjiv S. Gambhir, Charles M. Rudin, Dean W. Felsher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


KRAS mutant lung cancers are generally refractory to chemotherapy as well targeted agents. To date, the identification of drugs to therapeutically inhibit K-RAS have been unsuccessful, suggesting that other approaches are required. We demonstrate in both a novel transgenic mutant Kras lung cancer mouse model and in human lung tumors that the inhibition of Twist1 restores a senescence program inducing the loss of a neoplastic phenotype. The Twist1 gene encodes for a transcription factor that is essential during embryogenesis. Twist1 has been suggested to play an important role during tumor progression. However, there is no in vivo evidence that Twist1 plays a role in autochthonous tumorigenesis. Through two novel transgenic mouse models, we show that Twist1 cooperates with KrasG12D to markedly accelerate lung tumorigenesis by abrogating cellular senescence programs and promoting the progression from benign adenomas to adenocarcinomas. Moreover, the suppression of Twist1 to physiological levels is sufficient to cause Kras mutant lung tumors to undergo senescence and lose their neoplastic features. Finally, we analyzed more than 500 human tumors to demonstrate that TWIST1 is frequently overexpressed in primary human lung tumors. The suppression of TWIST1 in human lung cancer cells also induced cellular senescence. Hence, TWIST1 is a critical regulator of cellular senescence programs, and the suppression of TWIST1 in human tumors may be an effective example of pro-senescence therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1002650
JournalPLoS genetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cancer Research


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