Acquired resistance represents a bottleneck for effective molecular targeted therapy in lung cancer. Metabolic adaptation is a distinct hallmark of human lung cancer that might contribute to acquired resistance. In this study, we discovered a novel mechanism of acquired resistance to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) mediated by IGF2BP3-dependent cross-talk between epigenetic modifications and metabolic reprogramming through the IGF2BP3–COX6B2 axis. IGF2BP3 was upregulated in patients with TKI-resistant non–small cell lung cancer, and high IGF2BP3 expression correlated with reduced overall survival. Upregulated expression of the RNA binding protein IGF2BP3 in lung cancer cells reduced sensitivity to TKI treatment and exacerbated the development of drug resistance via promoting oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). COX6B2 mRNA bound IGF2BP3, and COX6B2 was required for increased OXPHOS and acquired EGFR-TKI resistance mediated by IGF2BP3. Mechanistically, IGF2BP3 bound to the 3′-untranslated region of COX6B2 in an m6A-dependent manner to increase COX6B2 mRNA stability. Moreover, the IGF2BP3–COX6B2 axis regulated nicotinamide metabolism, which can alter OXPHOS and promote EGFR-TKI acquired resistance. Inhibition of OXPHOS with IACS-010759, a small-molecule inhibitor, resulted in strong growth suppression in vitro and in vivo in a gefitinib-resistant patient-derived xenograft model. Collectively, these findings suggest that metabolic reprogramming by the IGF2BP3–COX6B2 axis plays a critical role in TKI resistance and confers a targetable metabolic vulnerability to overcome acquired resistance to EGFR-TKIs in lung cancer.

Significance:

IGF2BP3 stabilizes COX6B2 to increase oxidative phosphorylation and to drive resistance to EGFR inhibitors in lung cancer, which provides a therapeutic strategy to overcome acquired resistance by targeting metabolic transitions.

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