Induction of STK11-dependent cytoprotective autophagy in breast cancer cells upon honokiol treatment.
Cell Death Discov. 2020 Sep 6 ;6(1):81. Epub 2020 Sep 6. PMID: 34483341
Cancer cells hijack autophagy pathway to evade anti-cancer therapeutics. Many molecular signaling pathways associated with drug-resistance converge on autophagy induction. Honokiol (HNK), a natural phenolic compound purified from Magnolia grandiflora, has recently been shown to impede breast tumorigenesis and, in the present study, we investigated whether breast cancer cells evoke autophagy to modulate therapeutic efficacy and functional networks of HNK. Indeed, breast cancer cells exhibit increased autophagosomes-accumulation, MAP1LC3B-II/LC3B-II-conversion, expression of ATG proteins as well as elevated fusion of autophagosomes and lysosomes upon HNK treatment. Breast cancer cells treated with HNK demonstrate significant growth inhibition and apoptotic induction, and these biological processes are blunted by macroautophagy/autophagy. Consequently, inhibiting autophagosome formation, abrogating autophagosome-lysosome fusion or genetic-knockout of BECN1 and ATG7 effectively increase HNK-mediated apoptotic induction and growth inhibition. Next, we explored the functional impact of tumor suppressor STK11 in autophagy induction in HNK-treated cells. STK11-silencing abrogates LC3B-II-conversion, and blocks autophagosome/lysosome fusion and lysosomal activity as illustrated by LC3B-Rab7 co-staining and DQ-BSA assay. Our results exemplify the cytoprotective nature of autophagy invoked in HNK-treated breast cancer cells and put forth the notion that a combined strategy of autophagy inhibition with HNK would be more effective. Indeed, HNK and chloroquine (CQ) show synergistic inhibition of breast cancer cells and HNK-CQ combination treatment effectively inhibits breast tumorigenesis and metastatic progression. Tumor-dissociated cells from HNK-CQ treated tumors exhibit abrogated invasion and migration potential. Together, these results implicate that breast cancer cells undergo cytoprotective autophagy to circumvent HNK and a combined treatment with HNK and CQ can be a promising therapeutic strategy for breast cancer.