There will be an estimated 1.8 million new cancer diagnoses in the US this year alone, with >80% of these cases driven by oncogenic K-RAS/SIAH pathway activation, even in the absence of oncogenic RAS mutations. Over three decades of intense research has focused on conquering RAS pathway activation in cancer, yet oncogenic K-RAS has remained essentially undruggable. Seven-IN-Absentia (SINA) is an evolutionarily conserved E3 ubiquitin ligase that is the most downstream signaling module identified in the RAS signaling pathway thus far. Underscoring SINA’s importance is its high degree of evolutionary conservation with over 83% amino acid identity shared between Drosophila SINA and its human SINA homologs (SIAHs). As a major signaling “gatekeeper” in the RAS pathway, we have shown that SIAH is required for oncogenic K-RAS-driven tumorigenesis and metastasis in human pancreatic, lung, and breast cancers. Since SIAHs appear to be the ideal drug target to inhibit “undruggable” K-RAS activation, it is important to precisely characterize the activity, regulation, and substrate targeting mechanism(s) of this highly conserved family of SINA/SIAH E3 ligases. By deploying the Drosophila photoreceptor development system, we conducted a genetic modifier screen and identified 28 new sina mutant alleles that exhibit a range of mutant phenotypes. For example, sina complete loss of function (null alleles) is cell lethal, and several newly identified point mutant alleles exhibit stronger mutant phenotypes than those of previously published truncated alleles. Sequencing analysis of these sinamutant revealed critical roles of several immutable amino acid residues indispensable for SINA function. To demonstrate the functional conservation of SINA/SIAH proteins, we generated a collection of transgenic fly lines that carry either wild-type (WT) or dominant negative (DN) DmSINA and human SIAH1/2. Tissue-specific SINA/SIAH expression using GAL4 drivers revealed the biological consequences of gain or loss of function of SINA/SIAH1/2 in transmitting RAS signaling in Drosophila development. Immunofluorescent (IF) staining of developing imaginal discs and electron micrographs of adult tissues show that ectopic expression of SINAWT/DN/SIAHWT/DN in neurons resulted dramatic changes in neuronal cell fate in the developing eye and sensory neuronal cells on the notum. Furthermore, IF staining of larval salivary glands revealed a critical role for SINA/SIAH in regulating cell shape, focal adhesions, and cellular junctions. Results from these transgenic models suggest that Drosophila SINA and human SIAH1/2 are highly evolutionarily conserved and functionally interchangeable. Ultimately, we aim to translate these preclinical findings to demonstrate the high potency and anticancer efficacy of an anti-SIAH-based anti-K-RAS strategy against multidrug-resistant and incurable human cancer.

Citation Format: Robert E. Van Sciver, Yajun Cao, Atique U. Ahmed, Amy H. Tang. The critical role of seven-in-absentia (SINA) family E3 ligases in normal development and oncogenic K-RAS-driven human cancer [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2019; 2019 Mar 29-Apr 3; Atlanta, GA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2019;79(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 83.