M.D., Ph.D. National Taiwan University
Particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) is a risk factor for lung cancer. In this study, we investigated the molecular mechanisms of PM2.5 exposure on lung cancer progression. We found that short-term exposure to PM2.5 for 24 h activated the EGFR pathway in lung cancer cells (EGFR wild-type and mutant), while long-term exposure of lung cancer cells to PM2.5 for 90 days persistently promoted EGFR activation, cell proliferation, anchorage-independent growth, and tumor growth in a xenograft mouse model in EGFR-driven H1975 cancer cells. We showed that PM2.5 activated AhR to translocate into the nucleus and promoted EGFR activation. AhR further interacted with the promoter of TMPRSS2, thereby upregulating TMPRSS2 and IL18 expression to promote cancer progression. Depletion of TMPRSS2 in lung cancer cells suppressed anchorage-independent growth and xenograft tumor growth in mice. The expression levels of TMPRSS2 were found to correlate with nuclear AhR expression and with cancer stage in lung cancer patient tissue. Long-term exposure to PM2.5 could promote tumor progression in lung cancer through activation of EGFR and AhR to enhance the TMPRSS2-IL18 pathway.