Achaete-Scute Complex Homolog-1 Promotes DNA Repair in the Lung Carcinogenesis through Matrix Metalloproteinase-7 and O(6)-Methylguanine-DNA Methyltransferase
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the world. Achaete-scute complex homolog-1 (Ascl1) is a member of the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor family that has multiple functions in the normal and neoplastic lung such as the regulation of neuroendocrine differentiation, prevention of apoptosis and promotion of tumor–initiating cells. We now show that Ascl1 directly regulates matrix metalloproteinase-7 (MMP-7) and O(6)-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT). Loss- and gain-of-function experiments in human bronchial epithelial and lung carcinoma cell lines revealed that Ascl1, MMP-7 and MGMT are able to protect cells from the tobacco-specific nitrosamine NNK-induced DNA damage and the alkylating agent cisplatin-induced apoptosis. We also examined the role of Ascl1 in NNK-induced lung tumorigenesis in vivo. Using transgenic mice which constitutively expressed human Ascl1 in airway lining cells, we found that there was a delay in lung tumorigenesis. We conclude that Ascl1 potentially enhances DNA repair through activation of MMP-7 and MGMT which may impact lung carcinogenesis and chemoresistance. The study has uncovered a novel and unexpected function of Ascl1 which will contribute to better understanding of lung carcinogenesis and the broad implications of transcription factors in tobacco-related carcinogenesis.