Targeting RLIP with CRISPR/Cas9 controls tumor growth.


Singhal J(1)(2), Chikara S(1), Horne D(2), Awasthi S(3), Salgia R(1), Singhal SS(1).
Author information:
(1)Department of Medical Oncology, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center and National Medical Center, Duarte, CA, USA.
(2)Department of Molecular Medicine, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center and National Medical Center, Duarte, CA, USA.
(3)Department of Internal Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, TX, USA.


Breast cancer (BC) remains one of the major causes of cancer deaths in women. Over half of all BCs carry genetic defects in the gene encoding p53, a powerful tumor suppressor. P53 is known as the 'guardian of the genome' because it is essential for regulating cell division and preventing tumor formation. Ral-interacting protein (RLIP) is a modular protein capable of participating in many cellular functions. Blocking this stress-responsive protein, which is overexpressed during malignancy, enables BC cells to overcome the deleterious effects of p53 loss more effectively. In the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated protein (CRISPR/Cas9) system, a single-guide RNA (sgRNA) recognizes a specific DNA sequence and directs the endonuclease Cas9 to make a double-strand break, which enables editing of targeted genes. Here, we harnessed CRISPR/Cas9 technology to target the RLIP gene in BC cells. We screened sgRNAs using a reporter system and lentivirally delivered them, along with Cas9, to BC cells for validation. We then assessed the survival, proliferation, and tumorigenicity of BC cells in vitro and the growth of tumors in vivo after CRISPR-mediated knockdown of RLIP. Doxycycline-inducible expression of Cas9 in BC cells transduced with lentiviral vectors encoding the sgRNAs disrupted the RLIP gene, leading to inhibition of BC cell proliferation both in vitro and in vivo, with resected tumors showing reduced levels of the survival and proliferation markers Ki67, RLIP, pAkt, and survivin, the cell cycle protein CDK4, and the mesenchymal marker vimentin, as well as elevated levels of the differentiation protein E-cadherin and pro-apoptotic protein Bim. Inducible Cas9/sgRNA-transduced BC cells without doxycycline treatment did not exhibit altered cell survival or proliferation in vitro or in vivo. Our study provides proof-of-concept that the CRISPR/Cas9 system can be utilized to target RLIP in vitro and in vivo.