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Keywords:

  • Braf;
  • intestine;
  • mouse model;
  • senescence;
  • serrated colorectal cancer

Abstract

The majority of human colorectal cancers (CRCs) are initiated by mutations arising in the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) tumour suppressor gene. However, a new class of non-APC mutated CRCs has been defined that have a serrated histopathology and carry the V600EBRAF oncogene. Here we have investigated the pathogenesis of serrated CRCs by expressing V600EBraf in the proliferative cells of the mouse gastrointestinal tract. We show that the oncogene drives an initial burst of Mek-dependent proliferation, leading to the formation of hyperplastic crypts. This is associated with β-catenin nuclear localization by a mechanism involving Mapk/Erk kinase (Mek)-dependent, Akt-independent phosphorylation of Gsk3β. However, hyperplastic crypts remain dormant for prolonged periods due to the induction of crypt senescence accompanied by upregulation of senescence-associated β-galactosidase and p16Ink4a. We show that tumour progression is associated with down-regulation of p16Ink4a through enhanced CpG methylation of exon 1 and knockout of Cdkn2a confirms this gene is a barrier to tumour progression. Our studies identify V600EBRAF as an early genetic driver mutation in serrated CRCs and indicate that, unlike APC-mutated cancers, this subtype arises by the bypassing of a V600EBraf driven oncogene-induced senescence programme.