Inhibition of Phosphatidylcholine-Specific Phospholipase C Interferes with Proliferation and Survival of Tumor Initiating Cells in Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Serena Cecchetti, Ileana Bortolomai, Renata Ferri, Laura Mercurio, Silvana Canevari, Franca Podo, Silvia Miotti, Egidio Iorio
PloS One 2015, 10 (9): e0136120

PURPOSE: The role of phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C (PC-PLC), the enzyme involved in cell differentiation and proliferation, has not yet been explored in tumor initiating cells (TICs). We investigated PC-PLC expression and effects of PC-PLC inhibition in two adherent (AD) squamous carcinoma cell lines (A431 and CaSki), with different proliferative and stemness potential, and in TIC-enriched floating spheres (SPH) originated from them.

RESULTS: Compared with immortalized non-tumoral keratinocytes (HaCaT) A431-AD cells showed 2.5-fold higher PC-PLC activity, nuclear localization of a 66-kDa PC-PLC isoform, but a similar distribution of the enzyme on plasma membrane and in cytoplasmic compartments. Compared with A431-AD, A431-SPH cells showed about 2.8-fold lower PC-PLC protein and activity levels, but similar nuclear content. Exposure of adherent cells to the PC-PLC inhibitor D609 (48h) induced a 50% reduction of cell proliferation at doses comprised between 33 and 50 μg/ml, without inducing any relevant cytotoxic effect (cell viability 95±5%). In A431-SPH and CaSki-SPH D609 induced both cytostatic and cytotoxic effects at about 20 to 30-fold lower doses (IC50 ranging between 1.2 and 1.6 μg/ml). Furthermore, D609 treatment of A431-AD and CaSki-AD cells affected the sphere-forming efficiency, which dropped in both cells, and induced down-modulation of stem-related markers mRNA levels (Oct4, Nestin, Nanog and ALDH1 in A431; Nestin and ALDH1 in CaSki cells).

CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that the inhibition of PC-PLC activity may represent a new therapeutic approach to selectively target the most aggressive and tumor promoting sub-population of floating spheres originated from squamous cancer cells possessing different proliferative and stemness potential.

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