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Cellular and Molecular Biology

CDK5RAP3 as tumour suppressor negatively regulates self-renewal and invasion and is regulated by ERK1/2 signalling in human gastric cancer



Toward identifying new strategies to target gastric cancer stem-like cells (CSCs), we evaluated the function of the tumour suppressor CDK5 regulatory subunit-associated protein 3 (CDK5RAP3) in gastric CSC maintenance.


We examined the expression of CDK5RAP3 and CD44 in gastric cancer patients. The function and mechanisms of CDK5RAP3 were checked in human and mouse gastric cancer cell lines and in mouse xenograft.


We show that CDK5RAP3 is weakly expressed in gastric CSCs and is negatively correlated with the gastric CSC marker CD44. CDK5RAP3 overexpression decreased expression of CSC markers, spheroid formation, invasion and migration, and reversed chemoresistance in gastric CSCs in vitro and vivo. CDK5RAP3 expression was found to be regulated by extracellular-related kinase (ERK) signalling. ERK inhibitors decreased spheroid formation, migration and invasion, and the expression of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT)-related proteins in both GA cells and organoids derived from a genetically engineered mouse model of GA. Finally, CDK5RAP3 expression was associated with reduced lymph-node metastasis and better prognosis, even in the presence of high expression of the EMT transcription factor Snail, among patients with CD44-positive GA.


Our results demonstrate that CDK5RAP3 is suppressed by ERK signalling and negatively regulates the self-renewal and EMT of gastric CSCs.

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Fig. 1: The relation of CDK5RAP3 and CD44 expression in tumours of GA patients and gastric cell lines.
Fig. 2: Effect of CDK5RAP3 on EMT and acquisition of CSC phenotypes in gastric epithelial cells.
Fig. 3: Effect of CDK5RAP3 in gastric CSCs.
Fig. 4: Effect of CDK5RAP3 on chemotherapy resistance in gastric CSCs and gastric cancer xenografts.
Fig. 5: ERK signalling promotes CSC phenotypes and inhibits expression of CDK5RAP3 in gastric cancer cells.
Fig. 6: ERK-signalling inhibition and CDK5RAP3 negatively regulate EMT and metastasis in gastric CSCs.


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We would like to thank Dr. Hassan Ashktorab and Dr. Duane T. Smoot for providing the HFE-145 cell line. We also thank MSKCC senior editor Jessica Moore for reviewing this manuscript.

Author information




Conception and design: J.X.L., C.H.Y., S.S.Y. and C.M.H. Development of methodology: J.X.L., C.H.Y., P.L., S.W.R. and S.J.C. Acquisition of data: J.X.L., C.H.Y., C.H.Z., J.W.X., J.B.W. and J.L. Analysis and interpretation of data: J.X.L., C.H.Y., P.L., S.S.Y. and C.M.H. Writing, review and/or revision of the manuscript: J.X.L., C.H.Y., C.H.Z., J.W.X., S.S.Y. and C.M.H. Administrative, technical and material support: P.L., S.W.R. and S.J.C. Study Supervision: S.S.Y. and C.M.H.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Sam S. Yoon or Chang-ming Huang.

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Ethics approval and consent to participate

This study was approved by the institutional review board of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and Fujian Medical University Union Hospital. All animal procedures were done accordingly with the MSKCC Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. The use of human tissue samples and clinical data was approved by the ethics committee of FMUUH. The requirement of informed consent from the patients was waived because of the retrospective design of this study, and patients’ information was protected. All procedures performed in the study involving human participants were in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

Data availability

All data and material presented in this article and in the supplementary information are available upon request from the corresponding authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Funding information

This study was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81871899); Construction Project of Fujian Province Minimally Invasive Medical Center, China (No. [2017]171); NIH grants R01 CA158301 (SSY) and P30 CA008748; Project supported by the Science Foundation of the Fujian Province, China (No. 2018J01307); Joint Funds for the Innovation of Scientific and Technological, Fujian Province (No. 2018Y9008). The general project of sailing fund of Fujian Medical University (2017XQ1026).

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Lin, Jx., Yoon, C., Li, P. et al. CDK5RAP3 as tumour suppressor negatively regulates self-renewal and invasion and is regulated by ERK1/2 signalling in human gastric cancer. Br J Cancer 123, 1131–1144 (2020).

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