Human lung adenocarcinoma, the most prevalent form of lung cancer, is characterized by many molecular abnormalities. K-ras mutations are associated with the initiation of lung adenocarcinomas, but K-ras-independent mechanisms may also initiate lung tumors. Here, we find that the runt-related transcription factor Runx3 is essential for normal murine lung development and is a tumor suppressor that prevents lung adenocarcinoma. Runx3-/-mice, which die soon after birth, exhibit alveolar hyperplasia. Importantly, Runx3-/-bronchioli exhibit impaired differentiation, as evidenced by the accumulation of epithelial cells containing specific markers for both alveolar (that is SP-B) and bronchiolar (that is CC10) lineages. Runx3+-/-epithelial cells also express Bmi1, which supports self-renewal of stem cells. Lung adenomas spontaneously develop in aging Runx3+-/-mice (B18 months after birth) and invariably exhibit reduced levels of Runx3. As K-ras mutations are very rare in these adenomas, Run3+-/-mice provide an animal model for lung tumorigenesis that recapitulates the preneoplastic stage of human lung adenocarcinoma development, which is independent of K-Ras mutation. We conclude that Runx3 is essential for lung epithelial cell differentiation, and that downregulation of Runx3 is causally linked to the preneoplastic stage of lung adenocarcinoma.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research