Splice-switching of the insulin receptor pre-mRNA alleviates tumorigenic hallmarks in rhabdomyosarcoma

Safiya Khurshid, Matias Montes, Daniel F. Comiskey, Brianne Shane, Eleftheria Matsa, Francesca Jung, Chelsea Brown, Hemant Kumar Bid, Ruoning Wang, Peter J. Houghton, Ryan Roberts, Frank Rigo, Dawn Chandler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is an aggressive pediatric tumor with a poor prognosis for metastasis and recurrent disease. Large-scale sequencing endeavors demonstrate that Rhabdomyosarcomas have a dearth of precisely targetable driver mutations. However, IGF-2 signaling is known to be grossly altered in RMS. The insulin receptor (IR) exists in two alternatively spliced isoforms, IR-A and IR-B. The IGF-2 signaling molecule binds both its innate IGF-1 receptor as well as the insulin receptor variant A (IR-A) with high affinity. Mitogenic and proliferative signaling via the canonical IGF-2 pathway is, therefore, augmented by IR-A. This study shows that RMS patients express increased IR-A levels compared to control tissues that predominantly express the IR-B isoform. We also found that Hif-1α is significantly increased in RMS tumors, portraying their hypoxic phenotype. Concordantly, the alternative splicing of IR adapts to produce more IR-A in response to hypoxic stress. Upon examining the pre-mRNA structure of the gene, we identified a potential hypoxia-responsive element, which is also the binding site for the RNA-binding protein CUG-BP1 (CELF1). We designed Splice Switching Oligonucleotides (SSO) against this binding site to decrease IR-A levels in RMS cell lines and, consequently, rescue the IR-B expression levels. SSO treatment resulted in a significant reduction in cell proliferation, migration, and angiogenesis. Our data shows promising insight into how impeding the IGF-2 pathway by reducing IR-A expression mitigates tumor growth. It is evident that Rhabdomyosarcomas use IR alternative splicing as yet another survival strategy that can be exploited as a therapeutic intervention in conjunction with already established anti-IGF-1 receptor therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1
Journalnpj Precision Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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