Cholesterol Regulates the Tumor Adaptive Resistance to MAPK Pathway Inhibition

Xu Dong Wang, Chiho Kim, Yajie Zhang, Smita Rindhe, Melanie H. Cobb, Yonghao Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Although targeted MAPK pathway inhibition has achieved remarkable patient responses in many cancers, the development of resistance has remained a critical challenge. Adaptive tumor response underlies the drug resistance. Furthermore, such bypass mechanisms often lead to the activation of many pro-survival kinases, which complicates the rational design of combination therapies. Here, we performed global tyrosine phosphoproteomic (pTyr) analyses and demonstrated that targeted MAPK signaling inhibition in melanoma leads to a profound remodeling of the pTyr proteome. Intriguingly, altered cholesterol metabolism might drive, in a coordinated fashion, the activation of these kinases. Indeed, we found an accumulation of intracellular cholesterol in melanoma cells (with BRAFV600E mutations) and non-small cell lung cancer cells (with KRASG12C mutations) treated with MAPK and KRASG12C inhibitors, respectively. Importantly, depletion of cholesterol not only prevents the feedback activation of pTyr signaling but also enhances the cytotoxic effects of MAPK pathway inhibitors, both in vitro and in vivo. Together, our findings suggest that cholesterol contributes to the tumor adaptive response upon targeted MAPK pathway inhibitors. These results also suggest that MAPK pathway inhibitors could be combined with cholesterol-lowering agents to achieve a more complete and durable response in tumors with hyperactive MAPK signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5379-5391
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Proteome Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 3 2021


  • RTK
  • adaptive resistance
  • cholesterol
  • combination treatment
  • phosphoproteomic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Cholesterol Regulates the Tumor Adaptive Resistance to MAPK Pathway Inhibition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this