Int J Mol Sci 21 (21) 8072 [2020-10-29; online 2020-10-29]
Phaeochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGLs) are neuroendocrine catecholamine-producing tumours that may progress into inoperable metastatic disease. Treatment options for metastatic disease are limited, indicating a need for functional studies to identify pharmacologically targetable pathophysiological mechanisms, which require biologically relevant experimental models. Recently, a human progenitor phaeochromocytoma cell line named "hPheo1" was established, but its genotype has not been characterised. Performing exome sequencing analysis, we identified a KIF1B T827I mutation, and the oncogenic NRAS Q61K mutation. While KIF1B mutations are recurring somatic events in PPGLs, NRAS mutations have hitherto not been detected in PPGLs. Therefore, we aimed to assess its implications for the hPheo1 cell line, and possible relevance for the pathophysiology of PPGLs. We found that transient downregulation of NRAS in hPheo1 led to elevated expression of genes associated with cell adhesion, and enhanced adhesion to hPheo1 cells' extracellular matrix. Analyses of previously published mRNA data from two independent PPGL patient cohorts (212 tissue samples) revealed a subcluster of PPGLs featuring hyperactivated RAS pathway-signalling and under-expression of cell adhesion-related gene expression programs. Thus, we conclude that NRAS activity in hPheo1 decreases adhesion to their own extracellular matrix and mirrors a transcriptomic RAS-signalling-related phenomenon in PPGLs.