Targeting myristoylated alanine-rich C kinase substrate phosphorylation site domain in lung cancer: Mechanisms and therapeutic implications

Ching-Hsien Chen, Sarah Statt, Chun Lung Chiu, Philip Thai, Muhammad Arif, Kenneth B. Adler, Reen Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Rationale: Phosphorylation of myristoylated alanine-rich C kinase substrate (phospho-MARCKS) at the phosphorylation site domain (PSD) is crucial for mucus granule secretion and cell motility, but little is known concerning its function in lung cancer. Objectives: We aimed to determine if MARCKS PSD activity can serve as a therapeutic target and to elucidate the molecular basis of this potential. Methods: The clinical relevance of phospho-MARCKS was first confirmed. Next, we used genetic approaches to verify the functionality and molecular mechanism of phospho-MARCKS. Finally, cancer cells were pharmacologically inhibited for MARCKS activity and subjected to functional bioassays. Measurements and Main Results: We demonstrated that higher phospho-MARCKS levels were correlated with shorter overall survival of lung cancer patients. Using shRNA silencing and ectopic expression of wild-type and PSD-mutated (S159/163A) MARCKS, we showed that elevated phospho-MARCKS promoted cancer growth and erlotinib resistance. Further studies demonstrated an interaction of phosphoinositide 3-kinase with MARCKS, but not with phospho-MARCKS. Interestingly, phospho-MARCKS acted in parallel with increased phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-triphosphate pools and AKT activation in cells. Through treatment with a 25-mer peptide targeting the MARCKS PSD motif (MPS peptide), we were able to suppress tumor growth and metastasis in vivo, and reduced levels of phospho-MARCKS, phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-triphosphate, and AKT activity. This peptide also enhanced the sensitivity of lung cancer cells to erlotinib treatment, especially those with sustained activation of phosphoinositide 3-kinase/AKT signaling. Conclusions: These results suggest a key role for MARCKS PSD in cancer disease and provide a unique strategy for inhibiting the activity of MARCKS PSD as a treatment for lung cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1127-1138
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 15 2014


  • Erlotinib
  • Lung cancer
  • MARCKS phosphorylation
  • PI3K/AKT
  • PIP3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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