Department of Gastroenterology, Xinqiao Hospital, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing400037, China.
*Joint first authors, Jing Yan and Yuan Zhou contributed equally to this work.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells exhibit multidrug resistance (MDR), but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Cancer cells that overexpress telomerase are resistant to chemotherapeutic drugs. This study aimed to determine the effects of mitochondrial translocation of telomerase on MDR in HCC cells. HepG2 cells were transfected with negative plasmid and PTPN11 (Shp-2) short hairpin RNA (ShRNA) plasmid to establish HepG2-negative (HepG2 transfected with negative plasmid) and HepG2-ShShp-2 (HepG2 transfected with Shp-2 ShRNA plasmid) cells. Sensitivity to chemotherapeutic drugs was assessed by Cell Counting Kit-8 (CCK-8) assays. Distribution of human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) within mitochondria was detected by western blotting and immunofluorescence combined with laser scanning confocal microscopy. Mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation was demonstrated by flow cytometry with the mitochondrial superoxide (Mito-Sox) indicator. The frequency of damaged mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was illustrated by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR). Expression of mitochondrial respiratory chain complex subunits ND1 and COXII were also demonstrated by western blotting. Knockdown of Shp-2 in HepG2 cells resulted in upregulation of mitochondrial TERT expression and increased resistance to cisplatin (CDDP) and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) (resistance indices, 2.094 and 1.863, respectively). In addition, both the mitochondrial ROS and the frequency of mtDNA damage were decreased, and COXII expression was upregulated. Our results suggest that Mitochondrial translocation of hTERT may lead to chemotherapeutic resistance in HCC cells. Mitochondrial hTERT contributes to the drug resistance of tumor cells by reducing ROS production and mtDNA damage, and exerting a protective effect on the mitochondrial respiratory chain.
Keywords: telomerase, mitochondria, multidrug resistance, hepatocellular carcinoma.