Surfactant protein D inhibits activation of non-small cell lung cancer-associated mutant EGFR and affects clinical outcomes of patients

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Tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI)-sensitive and TKI-resistant mutations of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) are associated with lung adenocarcinoma. EGFR mutants were previously shown to exhibit ligand-independent activation. We have previously demonstrated that pulmonary surfactant protein D (SP-D, SFTPD) suppressed wild-type EGFR signaling by blocking ligand binding to EGFR. We herein demonstrate that SFTPD downregulates ligand-independent signaling in cells harboring EGFR mutations such as TKI-sensitive exon 19 deletion (Ex19del) and L858R mutation as well as TKI-resistant T790M mutation, subsequently suppressing cellular growth and motility. Lectin blotting and ligand blotting in lung cancer cell lines suggested that EGFR mutants express oligomannose-type N-glycans and interact with SFTPD directly. Cross-linking assay indicated that SFTPD inhibits ligand-independent dimerization of EGFR mutants. We also demonstrated that SFTPD reduced dimerization-independent phosphorylation of Ex19del and T790M EGFR mutants using point mutations that disrupted the asymmetric dimer interface. It was confirmed that SFTPD augmented the viability-suppressing effects of EGFR-TKIs. Furthermore, retrospective analysis of 121 patients with lung adenocarcinoma to examine associations between serum SFTPD levels and clinical outcome indicated that in TKI-treated patients with lung cancer harboring EGFR mutations, including Ex19del or L858R, high serum SFTPD levels correlated with a lower number of distant metastases and prolonged overall survival and progression-free survival. These findings suggest that SFTPD downregulates both TKI-sensitive and -resistant EGFR mutant signaling, and SFTPD level is correlated with clinical outcome. These findings illustrate the use of serum SFTPD level as a potential marker to estimate the efficacy of EGFR-TKIs.

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