Recently, using a co-culture system, we demonstrated that MCF7 epithelial cancer cells induce oxidative stress in adjacent cancer-associated fibroblasts, resulting in the autophagic/lysosomal degradation of stromal caveolin-1 (Cav-1). However, the detailed signaling mechanism(s) underlying this process remain largely unknown. Here, we show that hypoxia is sufficient to induce the autophagic degradation of Cav-1 in stromal fibroblasts, which is blocked by the lysosomal inhibitor chloroquine. Concomitant with the hypoxia-induced degradation of Cav-1, we see the upregulation of a number of well-established autophagy/mitophagy markers, namely LC3, ATG16L, BNIP3, BNIP3L, HIF-1α and NFκB. In addition, pharmacological activation of HIF-1α drives Cav-1 degradation, while pharmacological inactivation of HIF-1 prevents the downregulation of Cav-1. Similarly, pharmacological inactivation of NFκB—another inducer of autophagy—prevents Cav-1 degradation. Moreover, treatment with an inhibitor of glutathione synthase, namely BSO, which induces oxidative stress via depletion of the reduced glutathione pool, is sufficient to induce the autophagic degradation of Cav-1. Thus, it appears that oxidative stress mediated induction of HIF1- and NFκB-activation in fibroblasts drives the autophagic degradation of Cav-1. In direct support of this hypothesis, we show that MCF7 cancer cells activate HIF-1α- and NFκB-driven luciferase reporters in adjacent cancer-associated fibroblasts, via a paracrine mechanism. Consistent with these findings, acute knockdown of Cav-1 in stromal fibroblasts, using an siRNA approach, is indeed sufficient to induce autophagy, with the upregulation of both lysosomal and mitophagy markers. How does the loss of stromal Cav-1 and the induction of stromal autophagy affect cancer cell survival? Interestingly, we show that a loss of Cav-1 in stromal fibroblasts protects adjacent cancer cells against apoptotic cell death. Thus, autophagic cancer-associated fibroblasts, in addition to providing recycled nutrients for cancer cell metabolism, also play a protective role in preventing the death of adjacent epithelial cancer cells. We demonstrate that cancer-associated fibroblasts upregulate the expression of TIGAR in adjacent epithelial cancer cells, thereby conferring resistance to apoptosis and autophagy. Finally, the mammary fat pads derived from Cav-1 (−/−) null mice show a hypoxia-like response in vivo, with the upregulation of autophagy markers, such as LC3 and BNIP3L. Taken together, our results provide direct support for the “autophagic tumor stroma model of cancer metabolism”, and explain the exceptional prognostic value of a loss of stromal Cav-1 in cancer patients. Thus, a loss of stromal fibroblast Cav-1 is a biomarker for chronic hypoxia, oxidative stress and autophagy in the tumor microenvironment, consistent with its ability to predict early tumor recurrence, lymph node metastasis and tamoxifen-resistance in human breast cancers. Our results imply that cancer patients lacking stromal Cav-1 should benefit from HIF-inhibitors, NFκB-inhibitors, anti-oxidant therapies, as well as autophagy/lysosomal inhibitors. These complementary targeted therapies could be administered either individually or in combination, to prevent the onset of autophagy in the tumor stromal compartment, which results in a “lethal” tumor microenvironment.
caveolin-1; autophagy; BNIP3; cancer-associated fibroblasts; HIF1; hypoxia; LC3; mitophagy; NFκB; oxidative stress; predictive biomarker; TIGAR; tumor stroma
The role of autophagy in tumorigenesis is controversial. Both autophagy inhibitors (chloroquine) and autophagy promoters (rapamycin) block tumorigenesis by unknown mechanism(s). This is called the “Autophagy Paradox.” We have recently reported a simple solution to this paradox. We demonstrated that epithelial cancer cells use oxidative stress to induce autophagy in the tumor microenvironment. As a consequence, the autophagic tumor stroma generates recycled nutrients that can then be used as chemical building blocks by anabolic epithelial cancer cells. This model results in a net energy transfer from the tumor stroma to epithelial cancer cells (an energy imbalance), thereby promoting tumor growth. This net energy transfer is both unilateral and vectorial, from the tumor stroma to the epithelial cancer cells, representing a true host-parasite relationship. We have termed this new paradigm “The Autophagic Tumor Stroma Model of Cancer Cell Metabolism” or “Battery-Operated Tumor Growth.” In this sense, autophagy in the tumor stroma serves as a “battery” to fuel tumor growth, progression and metastasis, independently of angiogenesis. Using this model, the systemic induction of autophagy will prevent epithelial cancer cells from using recycled nutrients, while the systemic inhibiton of autophagy will prevent stromal cells from producing recycled nutrients—both effectively “starving” cancer cells. We discuss the idea that tumor cells could become resistant to the systemic induction of autophagy by the upregulation of natural, endogenous autophagy inhibitors in cancer cells. Alternatively, tumor cells could also become resistant to the systemic induction of autophagy by the genetic silencing/deletion of pro-autophagic molecules, such as Beclin1. If autophagy resistance develops in cancer cells, then the systemic inhibition of autophagy would provide a therapeutic solution to this type of drug resistance, as it would still target autophagy in the tumor stroma. As such, an anti-cancer therapy that combines the alternating use of both autophagy promoters and autophagy inhibitors would be expected to prevent the onset of drug resistance. We also discuss why anti-angiogenic therapy has been found to promote tumor recurrence, progression and metastasis. More specifically, anti-angiogenic therapy would induce autophagy in the tumor stroma via the induction of stromal hypoxia, thereby converting a non-aggressive tumor type to a “lethal” aggressive tumor phenotype. Thus, uncoupling the metabolic parasitic relationship between cancer cells and an autophagic tumor stroma may hold great promise for anti-cancer therapy. Finally, we believe that autophagy in the tumor stroma is the local microscopic counterpart of systemic wasting (cancer-associated cachexia), which is associated with advanced and metastatic cancers. Cachexia in cancer patients is not due to decreased energy intake, but instead involves an increased basal metabolic rate and increased energy expenditures, resulting in a negative energy balance. Importantly, when tumors were surgically excised, this increased metabolic rate returned to normal levels. This view of cachexia, resulting in energy transfer to the tumor, is consistent with our hypothesis. So, cancer-associated cachexia may start locally as stromal autophagy and then spread systemically. As such, stromal autophagy may be the requisite precursor of systemic cancer-associated cachexia.
caveolin-1; autophagy; cancer associated fibroblasts; hypoxia; mitophagy; oxidative stress; DNA damage; genomic instability; tumor stroma; wasting (cancer cachexia); Warburg effect
Autophagy, a lysosomal self-degradation and recycling pathway, plays dual roles in tumorigenesis. Autophagy deficiency predisposes to cancer, at least in part, through accumulation of the selective autophagy cargo p62, leading to activation of antioxidant responses and tumor formation. While cell growth and autophagy are inversely regulated in most cells, elevated levels of autophagy are observed in many established tumors, presumably mediating survival of cancer cells. Still, the relationship of autophagy and oncogenic signaling is poorly characterized. Here we show that the evolutionarily conserved transcription factor Myc (dm), a proto-oncogene involved in cell growth and proliferation, is also a physiological regulator of autophagy in Drosophila melanogaster. Loss of Myc activity in null mutants or in somatic clones of cells inhibits autophagy. Forced expression of Myc results in cell-autonomous increases in cell growth, autophagy induction, and p62 (Ref2P)-mediated activation of Nrf2 (cnc), a transcription factor promoting antioxidant responses. Mechanistically, Myc overexpression increases unfolded protein response (UPR), which leads to PERK-dependent autophagy induction and may be responsible for p62 accumulation. Genetic or pharmacological inhibition of UPR, autophagy or p62/Nrf2 signaling prevents Myc-induced overgrowth, while these pathways are dispensable for proper growth of control cells. In addition, we show that the autophagy and antioxidant pathways are required in parallel for excess cell growth driven by Myc. Deregulated expression of Myc drives tumor progression in most human cancers, and UPR and autophagy have been implicated in the survival of Myc-dependent cancer cells. Our data obtained in a complete animal show that UPR, autophagy and p62/Nrf2 signaling are required for Myc-dependent cell growth. These novel results give additional support for finding future approaches to specifically inhibit the growth of cancer cells addicted to oncogenic Myc.
The evolutionarily conserved transcription factor Myc promotes protein synthesis, cell growth and cancer progression through incompletely understood mechanisms. In this work, we show that forced expression of Myc induces the accumulation of abnormal proteins leading to unfolded protein responses (UPR), presumably by overloading the protein synthetic capacity of cells in Drosophila. UPR then results in autophagy-mediated breakdown and recycling of cytoplasmic material, and at the same time, to activation of antioxidant responses in these cells. Blocking the UPR stress signaling, autophagy and antioxidant pathways genetically, or by feeding larvae an autophagy-inhibiting drug, prevents overgrowth of Myc-expressing cells, but these treatments do not affect the growth of control cells in the same tissues. These results, together with recent reports in mammalian cancer models, suggest that drugs targeting UPR, autophagy and antioxidant responses may specifically inhibit cancer cell proliferation driven by oncogenic Myc.
Autophagy is a catabolic process involving lysosomal turnover of proteins and organelles for maintenance of cellular homeostasis and mitigation of metabolic stress. Autophagy defects are linked to diseases, such as liver failure, neurodegeneration, inflammatory bowel disease, aging and cancer. The role of autophagy in tumorigenesis is complex and likely context-dependent. Human breast, ovarian and prostate cancers have allelic deletions of the essential autophagy regulator BECN1 and Becn1+/− and other autophagy-deficient transgenic mice are tumor-prone, whereas tumors with constitutive Ras activation, including human pancreatic cancers, upregulate basal autophagy and are commonly addicted to this pathway for survival and growth; furthermore, autophagy suppression by Fip200 deletion compromises PyMT-induced mammary tumorigenesis. The double-edged sword function of autophagy in cancer has been attributed to both cell- and non-cell-autonomous mechanisms, as autophagy defects promote cancer progression in association with oxidative and ER stress, DNA damage accumulation, genomic instability and persistence of inflammation, while functional autophagy enables cancer cell survival under stress and likely contributes to treatment resistance. In this review, we will focus on the intimate link between autophagy and cancer cell metabolism, a topic of growing interest in recent years, which has been recognized as highly clinically relevant and has become the focus of intense investigation in translational cancer research. Many tumor-associated conditions, including intermittent oxygen and nutrient deprivation, oxidative stress, fast growth and cell death suppression, modulate, in parallel and in interconnected ways, both cellular metabolism and autophagy to enable cancer cells to rapidly adapt to environmental stressors, maintain uncontrolled proliferation and evade the toxic effects of radiation and/or chemotherapy. Elucidating the interplay between autophagy and tumor cell metabolism will provide unique opportunities to identify new therapeutic targets and develop synthetically lethal treatment strategies that preferentially target cancer cells, while sparing normal tissues.
Autophagy; Cancer cell metabolism; Warburg effect; Oxidative phosphorylation; Glycolysis
The glucose analog and glycolytic inhibitor 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG), which is currently under clinical evaluation for targeting cancer cells, not only blocks glycolysis thereby reducing cellular ATP, but also interferes with N-linked glycosylation, which leads to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and an unfolded protein response (UPR). Both bioenergetic challenge and ER stress have been shown to activate autophagy, a bulk cellular degradation process that plays either a pro- or anti-death role. Here, we investigate which pathway 2-DG interferes with that activates autophagy and the role of this process in modulating 2-DG-induced toxicity.
Pancreatic cancer cell line 1420, melanoma cell line MDA-MB-435 and breast cancer cell line SKBR3 were used to investigate the relationship between induction by 2-DG treatment of ER stress/UPR, ATP reduction and activation of autophagy. ER stress/UPR (Grp78 and CHOP) and autophagy (LC3B II) markers were assayed by immunoblotting, while ATP levels were measured using the CellTiter-Glo Luminescent Cell Viability Assay. Autophagy was also measured by immunofluorescence utilizing LC3B antibody. Cell death was detected with a Vi-Cell cell viability analyzer using trypan blue exclusion.
In the three different cancer cell lines described earlier, we find that 2-DG upregulates autophagy, increases ER stress and lowers ATP levels. Addition of exogenous mannose reverses 2-DG-induced autophagy and ER stress but does not recover the lowered levels of ATP. Moreover, under anaerobic conditions where 2-DG severely depletes ATP, autophagy is diminished rather than activated, which correlates with lowered levels of the ER stress marker Grp78. Additionally, when autophagy is blocked by siRNA, cell sensitivity to 2-DG is increased corresponding with upregulation of ER stress-mediated apoptosis. Similar increased toxicity is observed with 3-methyladenine, a known autophagy inhibitor. In contrast, rapamycin which enhances autophagy reduces 2-DG-induced toxicity.
Overall, these results indicate that the major mechanism by which 2-DG stimulates autophagy is through ER stress/UPR and not by lowering ATP levels. Furthermore, autophagy plays a protective role against 2-DG-elicited cell death apparently by relieving ER stress. These data suggest that combining autophagy inhibitors with 2-DG may be useful clinically.
2-Deoxy-D-glucose; Autophagy; ER stress; ATP; Cell death
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved lysosomal pathway for degrading cytoplasmic proteins, macromolecules, and organelles. While autophagy has become one of the most attractive topics in cancer research, the current autophagy literature is often viewed as confusing, because of its association with apparently contradictory roles, such as survival and cell death. Autophagy can serve as a tumor suppressor, as a partial reduction in autophagic capacity or defective autophagy (e.g., heterozygous knockdown BECN1 (+/−) in mice) provides an oncogenic stimulus, causing malignant transformation and spontaneous tumors. In addition, autophagy seems to function as a protective cell survival mechanism against environmental and cellular stress (e.g., nutrient deprivation, hypoxia and therapeutic stress) and causes resistance to antineoplastic therapies. Recent studies have demonstrated that the inhibition of autophagy in cancer cells may be therapeutically beneficial in some circumstances, as it can sensitize cancer cells to different therapies, including DNA-damaging agents, antihormone therapies (e.g., tamoxifen), and radiation therapy. This supports the hypothesis that inhibiting autophagy can negatively influence cancer cell survival and increase cell death when combined with anticancer agents, providing a therapeutic advantage against cancer. On the other hand, the induction of autophagy by the inhibition of anti-autophagic proteins, such as Bcl-2, PKCδ, and tissue transglutaminase 2 (TG2), may lead to autophagic cell death in some apoptosis-resistant cancers (i.e., breast and pancreatic cancers), indicating that the induction of autophagy alone may also be used as a potential therapy. Overall, the data suggest that, depending on the cellular features, either the induction or the inhibition of autophagy can provide therapeutic benefits to patients and that the design and synthesis of the first-generation modulators of autophagy may provide the tools for proof of concept experiments and the impetus for translational studies that may ultimately lead to new therapeutic strategies in cancer.
autophagy; programmed cell death; apoptosis; Bcl-2; Beclin 1; siRNA; small-molecule inhibitors; cancer
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, is a complex disease that arises in the setting of genetic alterations (KRAS, BRCA1, SMAD4, CDKN2A/p16INK4a and TP53), epigenetic perturbations (MIR155, acetylation and methylation) and epicellular events (diabetes and inflammation). We have demonstrated that the advanced glycation end product-specific receptor (AGER, also called RAGE) contributes to pancreatic tumorigenesis. Targeted ablation of AGER diminishes the amount of autophagic flux and attenuates the development of early pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) lesions in a murine model of KRAS-drivien carcinogenesis. Autophagy (programmed cell survival), a metabolic process of lysosome-mediated self-digestion, promotes pancreatic cancer growth. In pancreatic tumor cell lines, AGER-mediated autophagy promotes interleukin-6 (IL6)-induced phosphorylation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (pSTAT3) and mitochondrial localization of pSTAT3. Enhanced mitochondrial pSTAT3 increases the pool of available ATP and increases cellular proliferation. Moreover, we observed a positive feedback loop between activation of autophagy and the IL6-pSTAT3 pathway, perhaps different from the role of cytosolic nonphosphorylated STAT3, which has been reported to inhibit autophagy. These AGER-dependent changes were found during the earliest stages of pancreatic cancer development. These observations of inflammation and altered metabolism in PDA provide a pathological link to early precursor lesion development. Thus, AGER is an important inflammatory mediator that modulates crosstalk between prosurvival pathways, IL6-pSTAT3 and autophagy, in PDA tumor cells, and contributes to early PanIN formation.
RAGE; autophagy; oncogene; KRAS; IL6; STAT3
Prostate cancer (PCa) cells undergoing neuroendocrine differentiation (NED) are clinically relevant to the development of relapsed castration-resistant PCa. Increasing evidences show that autophagy involves in the development of neuroendocrine (NE) tumors, including PCa. To clarify the effect of autophagy on NED, androgen-sensitive PCa LNCaP cells were examined. Treatment of LNCaP cells with IL-6 resulted in an induction of autophagy. In the absence of androgen, IL-6 caused an even stronger activation of autophagy. Similar result was identified in NED induction. Inhibition of autophagy with chloroquine (CQ) markedly decreased NED. This observation was confirmed by beclin1 and Atg5 silencing experiments. Further supporting the role of autophagy in NED, we found that LC3 was up-regulated in PCa tissue that had relapsed after androgen-deprivation therapy when compared with their primary tumor counterpart. LC3 staining in relapsed PCa tissue showed punctate pattern similar to the staining of chromogranin A (CgA), a marker for NED cells. Moreover, autophagy inhibition induced the apoptosis of IL-6 induced NE differentiated PCa cells. Consistently, inhibition of autophagy by knockdown of beclin1 or Atg5 sensitized NE differentiated LNCaP cells to etoposide, a chemotherapy drug. To identify the mechanisms, phosphorylation of IL-6 downstream targets was analyzed. An increase in phospho-AMPK and a decrease in phospho-mTOR were found, which implies that IL-6 regulates autophagy through the AMPK/mTOR pathway. Most important to this study is the discovery of REST, a neuronal gene-specific transcriptional repressor that is involved in autophagy activation. REST was down-regulated in IL-6 treatment. Knockdown experiments suggest that REST is critical to NED and autophagy activation by IL-6. Together, our studies imply that autophagy is involved in PCa progression and plays a cytoprotective role when NED is induced in PCa cells by IL-6 treatment. These results reveal the potential of targeting autophagy as part of a combined therapeutic regime for NE tumors.
Nucleus accumbens-1 (NAC1), a nuclear factor belonging to the BTB/POZ gene family, is known to play important roles in proliferation and growth of tumor cells and in chemotherapy resistance. Yet, the mechanisms underlying how NAC1 contributes to drug resistance remain largely unclear. We reported here that autophagy was involved in NAC1-mediated resistance to cisplatin, a commonly used chemotherapeutic drug in the treatment of ovarian cancer. We found that treatment with cisplatin caused an activation of autophagy in ovarian cancer cell lines, A2780, OVCAR3, and SKOV3. We further demonstrated that knockdown of NAC1 by RNAi or inactivation of NAC1 by inducing the expression of a NAC1 deletion mutant that contains only the BTB/POZ domain significantly inhibited the cisplatin-induced autophagy, resulting in increased cisplatin cytotoxicity. Moreover, inhibition of autophagy and sensitization to cisplatin by NAC1 knockdown or inactivation were accompanied by induction of apoptosis. To confirm that the sensitizing effect of NAC1 inhibition on the cytotoxicity of cisplatin was attributed to suppression of autophagy, we assessed the effects of the autophagy inhibitors, 3-MA and chloroquine, and siRNAs targeting beclin 1 or Atg5, on the cytotoxicity of cisplatin. Treatment with 3-MA, chloroquine or beclin 1 and Atg5-targeted siRNA also enhanced the sensitivity of SKOV3, A2780 and OVCAR3 cells to cisplatin, indicating that suppression of autophagy indeed renders tumor cells more sensitive to cisplatin. Regulation of autophagy by NAC1 was mediated via high mobility group box1 (HMGB1), as the functional status of NAC1 was associated with the expression, translocation and release of HMGB1. The results of our study not only revealed a new mechanism determining cisplatin sensitivity, but also identified NAC1 as a novel regulator of autophagy. Thus, the NAC1- mediated autophagy may be exploited as a new target for enhancing the efficacy of cisplatin against ovarian cancer and other types of malignancies.
NAC1; autophagy; apoptosis; HMGB1; cisplatin; ovarian cancer
Autophagy is a self-catabolic process that maintains intracellular homeostasis and prolongs cell survival under stress via lysosomal degradation of cytoplasmic constituents and recycling of amino acids and energy. Autophagy is intricately involved in many aspects of human health and disease, including cancer. Autophagy is a double-edged sword in tumorigenesis, acting both as a tumor suppressor and a protector of cancer cell survival, and elucidation of its exact role at different stages of cancer progression and in treatment responsiveness is a complex and challenging task. Better understanding of autophagy regulation and its impact on treatment outcome will potentially allow us to identify novel therapeutic targets in cancer. In this review, we summarize current knowledge on the regulation and dual function of autophagy in tumorigenesis, as well as ongoing efforts in modulating autophagy for cancer treatment and prevention. This is a very exciting and highly promising area of cancer research, as pharmacologic modulation of autophagy appears to augment the efficacy of currently available anticancer regimens and opens the way to the development of new combinatorial therapeutic strategies that will hopefully contribute to cancer eradication.
autophagy; tumorigenesis; chemotherapy; radiation; cancer treatment
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved process whereby cytoplasm and cellular organelles are degraded in lysosomes for amino acid and energy recycling. Autophagy is a survival pathway activated in response to nutrient deprivation and other stressful stimuli, such as metabolic stress and exposure to anticancer drugs. However, autophagy may also result in cell death, if it proceeds to completion. Defective autophagy is implicated in tumorigenesis, as the essential autophagy regulator beclin 1 is monoallelically deleted in human breast, ovarian and prostate cancers, and beclin 1+/− mice are tumor-prone. How autophagy suppresses tumorigenesis is under intense investigation. Cell-autonomous mechanisms, involving protection of genome integrity and stability, and a non-cell-autonomous mechanism, involving suppression of necrosis and inflammation, have been discovered so far. The role of autophagy in treatment responsiveness is also complex. Autophagy inhibition concurrently with chemotherapy or radiotherapy has emerged as a novel approach in cancer treatment, as autophagy-competent tumor cells depend on autophagy for survival under drug- and radiation-induced stress. Alternatively, autophagy stimulation and preservation of cellular fitness bymaintenance of protein and organelle quality control, suppression of DNA damage and genomic instability, and limitation of necrosis-associated inflammation may play a critical role in cancer prevention.
Autophagy; Tumorigenesis; Tumor suppression; Autophagy regulation; Cancer therapy; Autophagy modulation
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is highly resistant to chemotherapy. It has been described as requiring elevated autophagy for growth and inhibiting autophagy has been proposed as a treatment strategy. To date, all preclinical reports and clinical trials investigating pharmacological inhibition of autophagy have used chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, which interfere with lysosomal function and block autophagy at a late stage. Verteporfin is a newly discovered autophagy inhibitor that blocks autophagy at an early stage by inhibiting autophagosome formation. Here we report that PDAC cell lines show variable sensitivity to verteporfin in vitro, suggesting cell-line specific autophagy dependence. Using image-based and molecular analyses, we show that verteporfin inhibits autophagy stimulated by gemcitabine, the current standard treatment for PDAC. Pharmacokinetic and efficacy studies in a BxPC-3 xenograft mouse model demonstrated that verteporfin accumulated in tumors at autophagy-inhibiting levels and inhibited autophagy in vivo, but did not reduce tumor volume or increase survival as a single agent. In combination with gemcitabine verteporfin moderately reduced tumor growth and enhanced survival compared to gemcitabine alone. While our results do not uphold the premise that autophagy inhibition might be widely effective against PDAC as a single-modality treatment, they do support autophagy inhibition as an approach to sensitize PDAC to gemcitabine.
autophagy; pancreatic cancer; verteporfin; gemcitabine; chemosensitization
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved process of cytoplasm and cellular organelle degradation in lysosomes. Autophagy is a survival pathway required for cellular viability during starvation; however, if it proceeds to completion, autophagy can lead to cell death. In neurons, constitutive autophagy limits accumulation of polyubiquitinated proteins and prevents neuronal degeneration. Therefore, autophagy has emerged as a homeostatic mechanism regulating the turnover of long-lived or damaged proteins and organelles, and buffering metabolic stress under conditions of nutrient deprivation by recycling intracellular constituents. Autophagy also plays a role in tumorigenesis, as the essential autophagy regulator beclin1 is monoallelically deleted in many human ovarian, breast, and prostate cancers, and beclin1+/− mice are tumor-prone. We found that allelic loss of beclin1 renders immortalized mouse mammary epithelial cells susceptible to metabolic stress and accelerates lumen formation in mammary acini. Autophagy defects also activate the DNA damage response in vitro and in mammary tumors in vivo, promote gene amplification, and synergize with defective apoptosis to accelerate mammary tumorigenesis. Thus, loss of the prosurvival role of autophagy likely contributes to breast cancer progression by promoting genome damage and instability. Exploring the yet unknown relationship between defective autophagy and other breast cancer-promoting functions may provide valuable insight into the pathogenesis of breast cancer and may have significant prognostic and therapeutic implications for breast cancer patients.
autophagy; breast cancer; beclin1; DNA damage; genomic instability
Two pathways are responsible for the majority of regulated protein catabolism in eukaryotic cells: the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) and lysosomal self-degradation through autophagy. Both processes are necessary for cellular homeostasis by ensuring continuous turnover and quality control of most intracellular proteins. Recent studies established that both UPS and autophagy are capable of selectively eliminating ubiquitinated proteins and that autophagy may partially compensate for the lack of proteasomal degradation, but the molecular links between these pathways are poorly characterized.
Here we show that autophagy is enhanced by the silencing of genes encoding various proteasome subunits (α, β or regulatory) in larval fat body cells. Proteasome inactivation induces canonical autophagy, as it depends on core autophagy genes Atg1, Vps34, Atg9, Atg4 and Atg12. Large-scale accumulation of aggregates containing p62 and ubiquitinated proteins is observed in proteasome RNAi cells. Importantly, overexpressed Atg8a reporters are captured into the cytoplasmic aggregates, but these do not represent autophagosomes. Loss of p62 does not block autophagy upregulation upon proteasome impairment, suggesting that compensatory autophagy is not simply due to the buildup of excess cargo. One of the best characterized substrates of UPS is the α subunit of hypoxia-inducible transcription factor 1 (HIF-1α), which is continuously degraded by the proteasome during normoxic conditions. Hypoxia is a known trigger of autophagy in mammalian cells, and we show that genetic activation of hypoxia signaling also induces autophagy in Drosophila. Moreover, we find that proteasome inactivation-induced autophagy requires sima, the Drosophila ortholog of HIF-1α.
We have characterized proteasome inactivation- and hypoxia signaling-induced autophagy in the commonly used larval Drosophila fat body model. Activation of both autophagy and hypoxia signaling was implicated in various cancers, and mutations affecting genes encoding UPS enzymes have recently been suggested to cause renal cancer. Our studies identify a novel genetic link that may play an important role in that context, as HIF-1α/sima may contribute to upregulation of autophagy by impaired proteasomal activity.
Autophagy; Drosophila; HIF-1α/sima; Hypoxia; p62/Ref2P; Proteasome
Autophagy is a lysosomal degradative pathway that plays an important role in maintaining cellular homeostasis. We previously showed that the inhibition of autophagy causes pancreatic β-cell apoptosis, suggesting that autophagy is a protective mechanism for the survival of pancreatic β-cells. The current study demonstrates that treatment with inhibitors and knockdown of the lysosomal cysteine proteases such as cathepsins B and L impair autophagy, enhancing the caspase-dependent apoptosis of INS-1 cells and islets upon exposure to high concentration of glucose. Interestingly, treatment with cathepsin B and L inhibitors prevented the proteolytic processing of cathepsins B, D and L, as evidenced by gradual accumulation of the respective pro-forms. Of note, inhibition of aspartic cathepsins had no effect on autophagy and cell viability, suggesting the selective role of cathepsins B and L in the regulation of β-cell autophagy and apoptosis. Lysosomal localization of accumulated pro-cathepsins in the presence of cathepsin B and L inhibitors was verified via immunocytochemistry and lysosomal fractionation. Lysotracker staining indicated that cathepsin B and L inhibitors led to the formation of severely enlarged lysosomes in a time-dependent manner. The abnormal accumulation of pro-cathepsins following treatment with inhibitors of cathepsins B and L suppressed normal lysosomal degradation and the processing of lysosomal enzymes, leading to lysosomal dysfunction. Collectively, our findings suggest that cathepsin defects following the inhibition of cathepsin B and L result in lysosomal dysfunction and consequent cell death in pancreatic β-cells.
Tumor hypoxia is a common microenvironmental factor that adversely influences tumor phenotype and treatment response. Cellular adaptation to hypoxia occurs through multiple mechanisms, including activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR). Recent reports have indicated that hypoxia activates a lysosomal degradation pathway known as autophagy, and here we show that the UPR enhances the capacity of hypoxic tumor cells to carry out autophagy, and that this promotes their survival. In several human cancer cell lines, hypoxia increased transcription of the essential autophagy genes microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3β (MAP1LC3B) and autophagy-related gene 5 (ATG5) through the transcription factors ATF4 and CHOP, respectively, which are regulated by PKR-like ER kinase (PERK, also known as EIF2AK3). MAP1LC3B and ATG5 are not required for initiation of autophagy but mediate phagophore expansion and autophagosome formation. We observed that transcriptional induction of MAP1LC3B replenished MAP1LC3B protein that was turned over during extensive hypoxia-induced autophagy. Correspondingly, cells deficient in PERK signaling failed to transcriptionally induce MAP1LC3B and became rapidly depleted of MAP1LC3B protein during hypoxia. Consistent with these data, autophagy and MAP1LC3B induction occurred preferentially in hypoxic regions of human tumor xenografts. Furthermore, pharmacological inhibition of autophagy sensitized human tumor cells to hypoxia, reduced the fraction of viable hypoxic tumor cells, and sensitized xenografted human tumors to irradiation. Our data therefore demonstrate that the UPR is an important mediator of the hypoxic tumor microenvironment and that it contributes to resistance to treatment through its ability to facilitate autophagy.
The “enhanced intracellular survival” (eis) gene of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) is involved in the intracellular survival of M. smegmatis. However, its exact effects on host cell function remain elusive. We herein report that Mtb Eis plays essential roles in modulating macrophage autophagy, inflammatory responses, and cell death via a reactive oxygen species (ROS)-dependent pathway. Macrophages infected with an Mtb eis-deletion mutant H37Rv (Mtb-Δeis) displayed markedly increased accumulation of massive autophagic vacuoles and formation of autophagosomes in vitro and in vivo. Infection of macrophages with Mtb-Δeis increased the production of tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-6 over the levels produced by infection with wild-type or complemented strains. Elevated ROS generation in macrophages infected with Mtb-Δeis (for which NADPH oxidase and mitochondria were largely responsible) rendered the cells highly sensitive to autophagy activation and cytokine production. Despite considerable activation of autophagy and proinflammatory responses, macrophages infected with Mtb-Δeis underwent caspase-independent cell death. This cell death was significantly inhibited by blockade of autophagy and c-Jun N-terminal kinase-ROS signaling, suggesting that excessive autophagy and oxidative stress are detrimental to cell survival. Finally, artificial over-expression of Eis or pretreatment with recombinant Eis abrogated production of both ROS and proinflammatory cytokines, which depends on the N-acetyltransferase domain of the Eis protein. Collectively, these data indicate that Mtb Eis suppresses host innate immune defenses by modulating autophagy, inflammation, and cell death in a redox-dependent manner.
Tuberculosis is a global health problem: at least one-third of the world's population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). Mtb is a successful pathogen that enhances its own intracellular survival by arresting phagolysosomal fusion. Recently, autophagy has emerged as a host defense strategy against Mtb infection, through stimulation of the fusion of phagosomes and lysosomes. However, excessive and uncontrolled autophagic activity can be detrimental to host cells and can result in their death. The Mtb “enhanced intracellular survival” (eis) gene has been implicated in the intracellular survival of M. smegmatis. However, its exact role and how it regulates host innate immune responses have not been fully explained. Here, we provide evidence that Eis suppresses macrophage autophagy, inflammation, and cell death through the inhibition of reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. Although it has previously been demonstrated that autophagy is a key host defense response to mycobacterial infections, our data indicate that excessive autophagy, and the resulting cell death, do not significantly affect host defense responses to mycobacteria. Additionally, our data reveal that Eis's ability to regulate ROS generation and proinflammatory responses depends on its N-acetyltransferase domain. These results underscore a previously unrecognized role of Eis in modulating host inflammatory responses, oxidative stress, and cell survival/death during mycobacterial infection.
Pancreatic cancer, the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, is resistant to current chemotherapies. Therefore, identification of different pathways of cell death is important to develop novel therapeutics. Our previous study has shown that triptolide, a diterpene triepoxide, inhibits the growth of pancreatic cancer cells in vitro and prevents tumor growth in vivo. However, the mechanism by which triptolide kills pancreatic cancer cells was not known, hence, this study aimed at elucidating it. Our study reveals that triptolide kills diverse types of pancreatic cancer cells by two different pathways; it induces caspase-dependent apoptotic death in some cell lines and death via a caspase-independent autophagic pathway in the other cell lines tested. Triptolide-induced autophagy requires autophagy-specific genes, atg5 or beclin 1 and its inhibition results in cell death via the apoptotic pathway, whereas inhibition of both autophagy and apoptosis rescues triptolide-mediated cell death. Our study shows for the first time that induction of autophagy by triptolide has a pro-death role in pancreatic cancer cells. Since triptolide kills diverse pancreatic cancer cells by different mechanisms, it makes an attractive chemotherapeutic agent for future use against a broad spectrum of pancreatic cancers.
pancreatic cancer; triptolide; apoptosis; caspase-3
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved cell survival pathway that enables cells to recoup ATP and other critical biosynthetic molecules during nutrient deprivation or exposure to hypoxia, which are hallmarks of the tumor microenvironment. Autophagy has been implicated as a potential mechanism of resistance to anticancer agents as it can promote cell survival in the face of stress induced by chemotherapeutic agents by breaking down cellular components to generate alternative sources of energy. Disruption of autophagy with chloroquine (CQ) induces the accumulation of ubiquitin-conjugated proteins in a manner similar to the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib (BZ). However, CQ-induced protein accumulation occurs at a slower rate and is localized to lysosomes in contrast to BZ, which stimulates rapid buildup of ubiquitinated proteins and aggresome formation in the cytosol. The histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor vorinostat blocked BZ-induced aggresome formation, but promoted CQ-mediated ubiquitinated protein accumulation. Disruption of autophagy with CQ strongly enhanced vorinostat-mediated apoptosis in colon cancer cells. Accordingly, knockdown of the essential autophagy gene Atg7 also sensitized cells to vorinostat-induced apoptosis. Knockdown of HDAC6 greatly enhanced BZ-induced apoptosis, but only marginally sensitized cells to CQ. Subsequent studies determined that the CQ/vorinostat combination promoted a large increase in superoxide generation that was required for ubiquitinated protein accumulation and cell death. Finally, treatment with the CQ/vorinostat combination significantly reduced tumor burden and induced apoptosis in a colon cancer xenograft model. Collectively, our results establish that inhibition of autophagy with CQ induces ubiquitinated protein accumulation and vorinostat potentiates CQ-mediated aggregate formation, superoxide generation, and apoptosis.
apoptosis; autophagy; bortezomib; proteasome; aggresome; chloroquine; histone deacetylase; superoxide; cancer
Breast cancer (BC) is a potentially life-threatening malignant tumor that still causes high mortality among women. One of the mechanisms through which cancer development could be controlled is autophagy. This process exerts different effects during the stages of cancer initiation and progression due to the occurring superimposition of signaling pathways of autophagy and carcinogenesis. Chronic inhibition of autophagy or autophagy deficiency promotes cancer, due to instability of the genome and defective cell growth and as a result of cell stress. However, increased induction of autophagy can become a mechanism which allows tumor cells to survive the conditions of hypoxia, acidosis, or chemotherapy. Therefore, in the development of cancer, autophagy is regarded as a double-edged sword. Determination of the molecular mechanisms underlying autophagy regulation and its role in tumorigenesis is an essential component of modern anticancer strategies. Results of scientific studies show that inhibition of autophagy may enhance the effectiveness of currently used anticancer drugs and other therapies (like radiotherapy). However, in some cases, the promotion of autophagy can induce death and, hence, elimination of the cancer cells and reduction of tumor size. This review summarizes the current knowledge on autophagy regulation in BC and up-to-date anticancer strategies correlated with autophagy.
Macroautophagy (autophagy hereafter) is a catabolic process by which cells degrade intracellular components in lysosomes. This cellular garbage disposal and intracellular recycling provided by autophagy serves to maintain cellular homeostasis by eliminating superfluous or damaged proteins and organelles, and invading microbes, or to provide substrates for energy generation and biosynthesis in stress. Thus, autophagy promotes the health of cells and animals and is critical for development, differentiation and maintenance of cell function and for the host defense against pathogens. Deregulation of autophagy is linked to susceptibility to various disorders including degenerative diseases, metabolic syndrome, aging, infectious diseases and cancer. Autophagic activity emerges as a critical factor in development and progression of diseases that are associated with increased cancer risk as well as in different stages of cancer. Given that cancer is a complex process and autophagy exerts its effect in multiple ways, role of autophagy in tumorigenesis is context-dependent. As a cytoprotective survival pathway, autophagy prevents chronic tissue damage and cell death that can lead to cancer initiation and progression. As such, stimulation or restoration of autophagy may prevent cancer. By contrast, once cancer occurs, cancer cells may utilize autophagy to enhance fitness to survive with altered metabolism and in the hostile tumor microenvironment. In this setting autophagy inhibition would instead become a strategy for therapy of established cancers.
autophagy; metabolism; homeostasis; inflammation; cancer prevention
Autophagy is a highly conserved, closely regulated homeostatic cellular activity that allows for the bulk degradation of long-lived proteins and cytoplasmic organelles. Its roles in cancer initiation and progression and in determining the response of tumor cells to anticancer therapy are complicated, and only limited investigation has been conducted on the potential significance of autophagy in the pathogenesis and therapeutic response of acute myeloid leukemia. Here we demonstrate that the inducible or transfected expression of the acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL)-specific PML-RARα, but not PLZF-RARα or NPM-RARα, fusion protein upregulates constitutive autophagy activation in leukemic and nonleukemic cells, as evaluated by hallmarks for autophagy including transmission electron microscopy. The significant increase in autophagic activity is also found in the leukemic cells-infiltrated bone marrow and spleen from PML-RARα-transplanted leukemic mice. The autophagy inhibitor 3-methyladenine significantly abrogates the autophagic events upregulated by PML-RARα, while the autophagic flux assay reveals that the fusion protein induces autophagy by increasing the on-rate of autophagic sequestration. Furthermore, this modulation of autophagy by PML-RARα is possibly mediated by a decreased activation of the Akt/mTOR pathway. Finally, we also show that autophagy contributes to the anti-apoptotic function of the PML-RARα protein. Given the critical role of the PML-RARα oncoprotein in APL pathogenesis, this study suggests an important role of autophagy in the development and treatment of this disease.
autophagy; acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL); PML-RARα; mTOR; apoptosis
Autophagy, or cellular self-eating, is a tightly regulated cellular pathway the main purpose of which is lysosomal degradation and subsequent recycling of cytoplasmic material to maintain normal cellular homeostasis. Defects in autophagy are linked to a variety of pathological states, including cancer. Cancer is the disease associated with abnormal tissue growth following an alteration in such fundamental cellular processes as apoptosis, proliferation, differentiation, migration and autophagy. The role of autophagy in cancer is complex, as it can promote both tumor prevention and survival/treatment resistance. It's now clear that modulation of autophagy has a great potential in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Recent findings identified intracellular calcium as an important regulator of both basal and induced autophagy. Calcium is a ubiquitous secondary messenger which regulates plethora of physiological and pathological processes such as aging, neurodegeneration and cancer. The role of calcium and calcium-permeable channels in cancer is well-established, whereas the information about molecular nature of channels regulating autophagy and the mechanisms of this regulation is still limited. Here we review existing mechanisms of autophagy regulation by calcium and calcium-permeable ion channels. Furthermore, we will also discuss some calcium-permeable channels as the potential new candidates for autophagy regulation. Finally we will propose the possible link between calcium permeable channels, autophagy and cancer progression and therapeutic response.
calcium; autophagy; TRP; ion channels; cancer
c-Jun NH2-terminal kinases (JNKs) are strongly activated by a stressful cellular environment, such as chemotherapy and oxidative stress. Autophagy is a protein-degradation system in which double-membrane vacuoles called autophagosomes are formed. The autophagy-related gene Beclin 1 plays a key role in this process. We previously found that autophagy was induced by dihydroartemisinin (DHA) in pancreatic cancer cells. However, little is known about the complex relationship between ROS, JNK activation, autophagy induction, and Beclin 1 expression.
Cell viability and CCK-8 assays were carried out to determine the cell proliferation; small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) were used to knockdown c-Jun NH2-terminal kinases (JNK1/2) genes; western blot was performed to detect the protein expression of LC3, JNK, Beclin 1, caspase 3 and β-actin; production of intracellular ROS was analyzed using FACS flow cytometry; autophagy induction was confirmed by electron microscopy.
In the present study, we explored the role of DHA and Beclin 1 expression in autophagy. DHA-treated cells showed autophagy characteristics, and DHA also activated the JNK pathway and up-regulated the expression of Beclin 1. Conversely, blocking JNK signaling inhibited Beclin 1 up-regulation. JNK activation was found to primarily depend on reactive oxygen species (ROS) resulting from the DHA treatment. Moreover, JNK pathway inhibition and Beclin 1 silencing prevented the induction of DHA-induced autophagy.
These results suggest that the induction of autophagy by DHA is required for JNK-mediated Beclin 1 expression.
c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase; Beclin 1; Apoptosis; LC3; Autophagy; Pancreatic cancer; Dihydroartemisinin
Autophagy is a lysosomal degradation pathway that can sequester cytosolic material including organelles nonspecifically in a process called nonselective macroautophagy, or can target specific protein aggregates designated for destruction in a process called selective autophagy. Autophagy is one mechanism that enables tumor cells to survive stressors in the tumor microenvironment, as well as injuries caused by treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The complexity of the role of autophagy in cancer is underscored by evidence that autophagy can allow premalignant cells to escape the genotoxic stress and inflammation that promote tumorigenesis, and by evidence that some tumor cells exhibit loss of autophagy capacity altogether through molecular mechanisms that have not yet been defined. Efforts to understand and modulate the autophagy pathway will be crucial to maximize the full therapeutic potential of cancer therapies which are currently hindered by tumor cell autophagy as a resistance mechanism.
autophagy; glioblastoma; angiogenesis; hypoxia