1. State Key Laboratory of Oncogenes and Related Genes, Shanghai Cancer Institute, Renji Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.
2. Department of Head and Neck Surgery, Renji Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.
*These authors contributed equally
Purpose: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a malignant disease with a poor prognosis. One prominent aspect of PDAC that contributes to its aggressive behavior is its altered cellular metabolism. The aim of this study was to characterize the oncogenic effects of ubiquinol-cytochrome c reductase core protein I (UQCRC1), a key component of mitochondrial complex III, in PDAC development and to assess its potential as a therapeutic target for PDAC.
Experimental Design: The expression of UQCRC1 in human PDAC tissues and p48-Cre/p53Flox/WT/LSL-KrasG12D (KPC) mouse pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasias (PanINs) was determined by immunohistochemistry. The role of UQCRC1 in promoting PDAC growth was evaluated in vitro in PANC-1 and CFPAC-1 cells and in vivo in transplanted mouse models of PDAC. Extracellular flux and RNA-Seq analyses were applied to investigate the mechanism of UQCRC1 in the regulation of mitochondrial metabolism and PDAC cell growth. The therapeutic potential of UQCRC1 in PDAC was assessed by knockdown of UQCRC1 using an RNA interference approach.
Results: UQCRC1 expression showed a gradual increase during the progression from PanIN stages to PDAC in KPC mice. Elevated expression of UQCRC1 was observed in 72.3% of PDAC cases and was correlated with poor prognosis of the disease. UQCRC1 promoted PDAC cell growth in both in vitro experiments and in vivo subcutaneous and orthotopic mouse models. UQCRC1 overexpression resulted in increased mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) and ATP production. The overproduced ATP was released into the extracellular space via the pannexin 1 channel and then functioned as an autocrine or paracrine agent to promote cell proliferation through the ATP/P2Y2-RTK/AKT axis. UQCRC1 knockdown or ATP release blockage could effectively inhibit PDAC growth.
Conclusion: UQCRC1 has a protumor function and may serve as a potential prognostic marker and therapeutic target for PDAC.
Keywords: Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma, UQCRC1, Mitochondrial Oxidative Phosphorylation, Extracellular ATP