Oxidative stress enhances tumorigenicity and stem-like features via the activation of the Wnt/β-catenin/MYC/Sox2 axis in ALK-positive anaplastic large-cell lymphoma Wu, Chengsheng; Gupta, Nidhi; Huang, Yung-Hsing; Zhang, Hai-Feng; Alshareef, Abdulraheem; Chow, Alexandra; Lai, Raymond
Background: The phenomenon that malignant cells can acquire stemness under specific stimuli, encompassed under the concept of cancer cell plasticity, has been well-described in epithelial malignancies. To our knowledge, cancer cell plasticity has not yet been described in hematopoietic cancers. To illustrate and study cancer cell plasticity in hematopoietic cancers, we employed an in-vitro experimental model of ALK-positive anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALK+ALCL) that is based on the phenotypic and functional dichotomy of these cells, with cells responsive to a Sox2 reporter (i.e. RR cells) being significantly more stem-like than those unresponsive to the reporter (i.e. RU cells). Methods: H₂O₂ was employed to trigger oxidative stress. GFP expression and luciferase activity, readouts of the Sox2 reporter activity, were quantified by using flow cytometry and luciferase activity assay, respectively. Doxorubicin-resistance and clonogenicity were assessed by using the MTS, methylcellulose colony formation and limiting dilution assays. Western blotting and quantitative PCR were used to assess the expression of various members of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. Pull-down studies using a Sox2 binding consensus sequence were used to assess Sox2-DNA binding. Quercetin and 10074-G5 were used to inhibit β-catenin and MYC, respectively. siRNA was used to downregulate Sox2. Results: Under H₂O₂-induced oxidative stress, a substantial fraction of RU cells was found to convert to RR cells, as evidenced by their acquisition of GFP expression and luciferase activity. Compared to the native RU cells, converted RR cells had significantly higher levels of doxorubicin-resistance, clonogenicity and sphere formation. Converted RR cells were characterized by an upregulation of the Wnt/β-catenin/MYC/Sox2 signaling axis, previously found to be the key regulator of the RU/RR dichotomy in ALK+ALCL. Furthermore, Sox2 was found to bind to DNA efficiently in converted RR cells but not RU cells, and this finding correlated with significant elevations of several Sox2 downstream targets such as WNT2B and BCL9. Lastly, inhibition of β-catenin, MYC or Sox2 in RU cells significantly abrogated the H₂O₂-induced RU/RR conversion. Conclusions We have demonstrated that cancer cell plasticity exists in ALK+ALCL, a type of hematopoietic cancer. In this cancer type, the Wnt/β-catenin/MYC/Sox2 axis is an important regulator of cancer cell plasticity.
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