CRISPR knockout of the HuR gene causes a xenograft lethal phenotype

Shruti Lal, Edwin C. Cheung, Mahsa Zarei, Ranjan Preet, Saswati N. Chand, Nicole C. Mambelli-Lisboa, Carmella Romeo, Matthew C. Stout, Eric Londin, Austin Goetz, Cinthya Y. Lowder, Avinoam Nevler, Charles J. Yeo, Paul M. Campbell, Jordan M. Winter, Dan A. Dixon, Jonathan R. Brody

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, whereas colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer. The RNAbinding protein HuR (ELAVL1) supports a pro-oncogenic network in gastrointestinal (GI) cancer cells through enhanced HuR expression. Using a publically available database, HuR expression levels were determined to be increased in primary PDA and colorectal cancer tumor cohorts as compared with normal pancreas and colon tissues, respectively. CRISPR/Cas9 technology was successfully used to delete the HuR gene in both PDA (MIA PaCa-2 and Hs 766T) and colorectal cancer (HCT116) cell lines. HuR deficiency has a mild phenotype, in vitro, as HuR-deficient MIA PaCa-2 (MIA.HuR-KO(-/-)) cells had increased apoptosis when compared with isogenic wildtype (MIA.HuR-WT(+/+)) cells. Using this isogenic system, mRNAs were identified that specifically bound to HuR and were required for transforming a two-dimensional culture into three dimensional (i.e., organoids). Importantly, HuR-deficient MIA PaCa-2 and Hs 766T cells were unable to engraft tumors in vivo compared with control HuR-proficient cells, demonstrating a unique xenograft lethal phenotype. Although not as a dramatic phenotype, CRISPR knockout HuR HCT116 colon cancer cells (HCT.HuR-KO(-/-)) showed significantly reduced in vivo tumor growth compared with controls (HCT.HuR-WT(+/+)). Finally, HuR deletion affects KRAS activity and controls a subset of pro-oncogenic genes. Implications: The work reported here supports the notion that targeting HuR is a promising therapeutic strategy to treat GI malignancies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)696-707
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Cancer Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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