Endogenous interferon γ (IFNγ) promotes the host response to primary tumors, and IFNγ-insensitive tumors display increased tumorigenicity and can evade tumor surveillance mechanisms. Here we demonstrate that activating mutations of Ki-ras are sufficient to inhibit the expression of STAT1 and STAT2, transcription factors required for signaling by IFNs, providing a potential mechanism for the insensitivity of tumors to IFNs. We demonstrated that colon cancer cell lines with Ki-ras mutations display reduced expression of IFN-responsive genes compared with the cell lines that have retained wild type Ras and that inactivation of the mutant Ki-ras allele in the HCT116 colon cancer cell line is sufficient to restore the expression of STAT1, STAT2, and IRF-9. Accordingly, the expression of 27 interferon-inducible genes was reduced in HCT116 cells compared with the isogenic clones with targeted deletion of the mutant Ki-ras allele, Hkh2 and Hke-3. The expression of IFNγ receptors did not differ among the isogenic cell lines. IFNγ stimulated transcription of a STAT1-dependent reporter gene was impaired by RasV12, demonstrating a transmodulation of IFN/STAT signaling by activated Ras. Finally, we demonstrated that the expression of RasV12 in 293T cells is sufficient to inhibit the endogenous expression of STAT1 and STAT2, confirming the negative regulation of IFN signaling by oncogenic Ras. Our data demonstrate that the signaling initiated by activated Ki-ras interferes with the IFN/STAT signaling pathway and modulates the responsiveness of cancer cells to interferons. Furthermore, the data suggest that tumors harboring activating Ki-ras mutations may escape tumor surveillance mechanisms due to reduced responsiveness to IFNγ.
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