Chronic cigarette smoke-induced epigenomic changes precede sensitization of bronchial epithelial cells to single-step transformation by KRAS mutations
We define how chronic cigarette smoke-induced time-dependent epigenetic alterations can sensitize human bronchial epithelial cells for transformation by a single oncogene. The smoke-induced chromatin changes include initial repressive polycomb marking of genes, later manifesting abnormal DNA methylation by 10 months. At this time, cells exhibit epithelial-to-mesenchymal changes, anchorage-independent growth, and upregulated RAS/MAPK signaling with silencing of hypermethylated genes, which normally inhibit these pathways and are associated with smoking-related non-small cell lung cancer. These cells, in the absence of any driver gene mutations, now transform by introducing a single KRAS mutation and form adenosquamous lung carcinomas in mice. Thus, epigenetic abnormalities may prime for changing oncogene senescence to addiction for a single key oncogene involved in lung cancer initiation.