1. Institute of Medical Imaging and Artificial Intelligence, 212001, Zhenjiang, Jiang Su Province, China.
2. Department of Medical Imaging, The Affiliated Hospital of Jiangsu University, 212001, Zhenjiang, China.
3. Department of Cell Biology, School of Medicine, Jiangsu University, 212001, Zhenjiang, Jiang Su Province, China.
4. Nanjing Lishui People's Hospital, Zhongda Hospital Lishui Branch, Southeast University, Nanjing, Jiang Su Province, China.
Potassium (K+) is a vital intracellular cation. In the human body, it regulates membrane potential, electrical excitation, protein synthesis, and cell death. Recent studies revealed that dying cancer cells release potassium into the tumor microenvironment (TME), thereby influencing cell survival-related events. Several investigations reported that potassium channels and high potassium levels influence apoptosis. Increasing extracellular potassium and inhibiting K+ efflux channels significantly block the apoptotic machinery. However, it is unknown whether a high-potassium environment also affects other types of cell death such as ferroptosis. In the present study, cell counting kit (CCK-8), colony formation ability, and 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine (EdU) assays demonstrated that a high-potassium environment reverses erastin-induced ferroptosis. RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) and gene ontology (GO) analyses indicated that high potassium levels attenuated the unfolded protein response that is characteristic of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. The ER transmembrane proteins PRKR-like ER kinase (PERK), inositol-requiring enzyme 1α (IRE1α), and activating transcription factor 6 (ATF6) are recognized as ER stress sensors. Here, the PERK blocker GSK2606414 significantly rescued ferroptosis. The present work also disclosed that the ER-related gene activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3) played a vital role in regulating ferroptosis in a high-potassium environment. The foregoing results revealed the roles of potassium and the TME in cancer cell ferroptosis and provided a potential clinical therapeutic strategy for cancer.