Augert A, et al. Cancer Cell 2020.
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a highly aggressive and lethal neoplasm. To identify candidate tumor suppressors we applied CRISPR/Cas9 gene inactivation screens to a cellular model of early-stage SCLC. Among the top hits was MAX, the obligate heterodimerization partner for MYC family proteins that is mutated in human SCLC. Max deletion increases growth and transformation in cells and dramatically accelerates SCLC progression in an Rb1/Trp53-deleted mouse model. In contrast, deletion of Max
abrogates tumorigenesis in MYCL-overexpressing SCLC. Max deletion in SCLC resulted in derepression of metabolic genes involved in serine and one-carbon metabolism. By increasing serine biosynthesis, Max-deleted cells exhibit resistance to serine depletion. Thus, Max loss results in metabolic rewiring and context-specific tumor suppression.