MET exon 14 skipping alteration (METΔ14Ex) is an actionable oncogenic driver that occurs in 2% to 4% of non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cases. The precise role of METΔ14Ex in tumor progression of NSCLC is poorly understood. Using multiple isogenic METΔ14Ex cell models established with CRISPR editing, we demonstrate that METΔ14Ex expression increases receptor kinase activity and downstream signaling by impairing receptor internalization and endocytic degradation, significantly boosting cell scatter, migration, and invasion capacity in vitro as well as metastasis in vivo. RNA sequencing analysis revealed that METΔ14Ex preferentially activates biological processes associated with cell movement, providing novel insights into its unique molecular mechanism of action. Activation of PI3K/Akt/Rac1 signaling and upregulation of multiple matrix metallopeptidases (MMP) by METΔ14Ex induced cytoskeleton remodeling and extracellular matrix disassembly, which are critical functional pathways that facilitate cell invasion and metastasis. Therapeutically, MET inhibitors dramatically repressed METΔ14Ex-mediated tumor growth and metastasis in vivo, indicating potential therapeutic options for METΔ14Ex-altered NSCLC patients. These mechanistic insights into METΔ14Ex-mediated invasion and metastasis provide a deeper understanding of the role of METΔ14Ex in NSCLC.
These findings reveal the mechanistic function of METΔ14Ex alteration in driving metastasis and define novel metastasis-related pathways that could be targeted for more effective treatment of lung cancer with METΔ14Ex alterations.