Overexpressed EGFR and mutant K-Ras play vital roles in therapeutic resistance in colorectal cancer patients. To search for an effective therapeutic protocol is an urgent task. A secondary metabolite in the sponge Hippospongia sp., Heteronemin, has been shown to induce anti-proliferation in several types of cancers. A thyroxine-deaminated analogue, tetrac, binds to integrin αvβ3 to induce anti-proliferation in different cancers. Heteronemin- and in combination with tetrac-induced antiproliferative effects were evaluated. Tetrac enhanced heteronemin-induced anti-proliferation in HT-29 cells (KRAS WT CRC) and HCT-116 cells (KRAS MT CRC). Heteronemin and tetrac arrested cell cycle in different phases. Combined treatment increased the cell accumulation in sub-G1 and S phases. The combined treatment also induced the inactivation of EGFR signaling and downregulated the phosphorylated ERK1/2 protein in both cell lines. Heteronemin and the combination showed the downregulation of the phosphorylated and total PI3K protein in HT-29 cells (KRAS WT CRC). Results by NanoString technology and RT-qPCR revealed that heteronemin and combined treatment suppressed the expression of EGFR and downstream genes in HCT-116 cells (KRAS MT CRC). Heteronemin or combined treatment downregulated genes associated with cancer progression and decreased cell motility. Heteronemin or the combined treatment suppressed PD-L1 expression in both cancer cell lines. However, only tetrac and the combined treatment inhibited PD-L1 protein accumulation in HT-29 cells (KRAS WT CRC) and HCT-116 cells (KRAS MT CRC), respectively. In summary, heteronemin induced anti-proliferation in colorectal cancer cells by blocking the EGFR-dependent signal transduction pathway. The combined treatment further enhanced the anti-proliferative effect via PD-L1 suppression. It can be an alternative strategy to suppress mutant KRAS resistance for anti-EGFR therapy.
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