The Epithelial Sodium Channel (αENaC) Is a Downstream Therapeutic Target of ASCL1 in Pulmonary Neuroendocrine Tumors

Min He, Shanshan Liu, Sachith Gallolu Kankanamalage, Mark D. Borromeo, Luc Girard, Adi F. Gazdar, John D. Minna, Jane E. Johnson, Melanie H. Cobb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive neuroendocrine carcinoma, designated as a recalcitrant cancer by the National Cancer Institute, in urgent need of new rational therapeutic targets. Previous studies have determined that the basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor achaete-scute homolog 1 (ASCL1) is essential for the survival and progression of a fraction of pulmonary neuroendocrine cancer cells, which include both SCLC and a subset of non-SCLC. Previously, to understand how ASCL1 initiates tumorigenesis in pulmonary neuroendocrine cancer and identify the transcriptional targets of ASCL1, whole-genome RNA-sequencing analysis combined with chromatin immunoprecipitation-sequencing was performed with a series of lung cancer cell lines. From this analysis, we discovered that the gene SCNN1A, which encodes the alpha subunit of the epithelial sodium channel (αENaC), is highly correlated with ASCL1 expression in SCLC. The product of the SCNN1A gene ENaC can be pharmacologically inhibited with amiloride, a drug that has been used clinically for close to 50 years. Amiloride inhibited growth of ASCL1-dependent SCLC more strongly than ASCL1-independent SCLC in vitro and slowed growth of ASCL1-driven SCLC in xenografts. We conclude that SCNN1A/αENaC is a direct transcriptional target of the neuroendocrine lung cancer lineage oncogene ASCL1 that can be pharmacologically targeted with antitumor effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-299
Number of pages8
JournalTranslational Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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