New therapeutic targets for advanced colorectal cancer (CRC) are critically needed. Our laboratory recently performed an insertional mutagenesis screen in mice to identify novel CRC driver genes and, thus, potential drug targets. Here, we define Transmembrane 9 Superfamily 2 (TM9SF2) as a novel CRC oncogene. TM9SF2 is an understudied protein, belonging to a well conserved protein family characterized by their nine putative transmembrane domains. Based on our transposon screen we found that TM9SF2 is a candidate progression driver in digestive tract tumors. Analysis of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) data revealed that approximately 35% of CRC patients have elevated levels of TM9SF2 mRNA, data we validated using an independent set of CRC samples. RNAi silencing of TM9SF2 reduced CRC cell growth in an anchorage-independent manner, a hallmark of cancer. Furthermore, CRISPR/Cas9 knockout of TM9SF2 substantially diminished CRC tumor fitness in vitro and in vivo. Transcriptome analysis of TM9SF2 knockout cells revealed a potential role for TM9SF2 in cell cycle progression, oxidative phosphorylation, and ceramide signaling. Lastly, we report that increased TM9SF2 expression correlates with disease stage and low TM9SF2 expression correlate with a more favorable relapse-free survival. Taken together, this study provides evidence that TM9SF2 is a novel CRC oncogene.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by a 3M Science and Technology Fellowship award and the Norman Wells Memorial Fellowship from the Minnesota Colorectal Cancer Research Foundation (Clark CR). Additional financial support came from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, No. 5R00CA1516723-03, the Mezin-Koats Colorectal Cancer Research Fund and the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center (Starr, TK). Other support came from the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute and the University of MN Genomics Center. The authors thank Robert T. Cormier for critically reviewing and editing the manuscript.