Unique vulnerability of RAC1-mutant melanoma to combined inhibition of CDK9 and immune checkpoints

Alexa C. Cannon, Konstantin Budagyan, Cristina Uribe-Alvarez, Alison M. Kurimchak, Daniela Araiza-Olivera, Kathy Q. Cai, Suraj Peri, Yan Zhou, James S. Duncan, Jonathan Chernoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


RAC1P29S is the third most prevalent hotspot mutation in sun-exposed melanoma. RAC1 alterations in cancer are correlated with poor prognosis, resistance to standard chemotherapy, and insensitivity to targeted inhibitors. Although RAC1P29S mutations in melanoma and RAC1 alterations in several other cancers are increasingly evident, the RAC1-driven biological mechanisms contributing to tumorigenesis remain unclear. Lack of rigorous signaling analysis has prevented identification of alternative therapeutic targets for RAC1P29S-harboring melanomas. To investigate the RAC1P29S-driven effect on downstream molecular signaling pathways, we generated an inducible RAC1P29S expression melanocytic cell line and performed RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) coupled with multiplexed kinase inhibitor beads and mass spectrometry (MIBs/MS) to establish enriched pathways from the genomic to proteomic level. Our proteogenomic analysis identified CDK9 as a potential new and specific target in RAC1P29S-mutant melanoma cells. In vitro, CDK9 inhibition impeded the proliferation of in RAC1P29S-mutant melanoma cells and increased surface expression of PD-L1 and MHC Class I proteins. In vivo, combining CDK9 inhibition with anti-PD-1 immune checkpoint blockade significantly inhibited tumor growth only in melanomas that expressed the RAC1P29S mutation. Collectively, these results establish CDK9 as a novel target in RAC1-driven melanoma that can further sensitize the tumor to anti-PD-1 immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-743
Number of pages15
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jan 19 2024


  • Carcinogenesis
  • Cell Line
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 9
  • Humans
  • Melanocytes
  • Melanoma/drug therapy
  • Proteomics
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein/genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Unique vulnerability of RAC1-mutant melanoma to combined inhibition of CDK9 and immune checkpoints'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this