The identification of oncogenic biomolecules as drug targets is an unmet need for the development of clinically effective novel anticancer therapies. In this study, we report for the first time that opsin 4/melanopsin (OPN4) plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and is a potential drug target. Our study has revealed that OPN4 is overexpressed in human lung cancer tissues and cells, and is inversely correlated with patient survival probability. Knocking down expression of OPN4 suppressed cells growth and induced apoptosis in lung cancer cells. We have also found that OPN4, a G protein-coupled receptor, interacted with Gα11 and triggered the PKC/BRAF/MEK/ERKs signaling pathway in lung adenocarcinoma cells. Genetic ablation of OPN4 attenuated the multiplicity and the volume of urethane-induced lung tumors in mice. Importantly, our study provides the first report of AE 51310 (1-[(2,5-dichloro-4-methoxyphenyl)sulfonyl]-3-methylpiperidine) as a small-molecule inhibitor of OPN4, suppressed the anchorage-independent growth of lung cancer cells and the growth of patient-derived xenograft tumors in mice. IMPLICATIONS: Overall, this study unveils the role of OPN4 in NSCLC and suggests that targeting OPN4 with small molecules, such as AE 51310 would be interesting to develop novel anticancer therapies for lung adenocarcinoma.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Hormel Foundation (to Z. Dong). The authors thank Tara Adams for supporting animal experiments (The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, Austin, MN).
© 2020 American Association for Cancer Research.