KRAS mutation in colorectal cancer is associated with aggressive tumor behavior through increased invasiveness and higher rates of lung metastases, but the biological mechanisms behind these features are not fully understood. In this study, we show that KRAS-mutant colorectal cancer upregulates integrin α6β4 through ERK/MEK signaling. Knocking-out integrin β4 (ITGB4) specifically depleted the expression of integrin α6β4 and this resulted in a reduction in the invasion and migration ability of the cancer cells. We also observed a reduction in the number and area of lung metastatic foci in mice that were injected with ITGB4 knockout KRAS-mutant colorectal cancer cells compared with the mice injected with ITGB4 wild-type KRAS-mutant colorectal cancer cells, while no difference was observed in liver metastases. Inhibiting integrin α6β4 in KRAS-mutant colorectal cancer could be a potential therapeutic target to diminish the KRAS-invasive phenotype and associated pulmonary metastasis rate.

Implications:

Knocking-out ITGB4, which is overexpressed in KRAS-mutant colorectal cancer and promotes tumor aggressiveness, diminishes local invasiveness and rates of pulmonary metastasis.

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