Mitochondrial dysfunction in a cell model of thyroid oncocytoma

Hoque, Martha (2008) Mitochondrial dysfunction in a cell model of thyroid oncocytoma, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Biologia e fisiologia cellulare, 20 Ciclo.
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The role of mitochondrial dysfunction in cancer has long been a subject of great interest. In this study, such dysfunction has been examined with regards to thyroid oncocytoma, a rare form of cancer, accounting for less than 5% of all thyroid cancers. A peculiar characteristic of thyroid oncocytic cells is the presence of an abnormally large number of mitochondria in the cytoplasm. Such mitochondrial hyperplasia has also been observed in cells derived from patients suffering from mitochondrial encephalomyopathies, where mutations in the mitochondrial DNA(mtDNA) encoding the respiratory complexes result in oxidative phosphorylation dysfunction. An increase in the number of mitochondria occurs in the latter in order to compensate for the respiratory deficiency. This fact spurred the investigation into the presence of analogous mutations in thyroid oncocytic cells. In this study, the only available cell model of thyroid oncocytoma was utilised, the XTC-1 cell line, established from an oncocytic thyroid metastasis to the breast. In order to assess the energetic efficiency of these cells, they were incubated in a medium lacking glucose and supplemented instead with galactose. When subjected to such conditions, glycolysis is effectively inhibited and the cells are forced to use the mitochondria for energy production. Cell viability experiments revealed that XTC-1 cells were unable to survive in galactose medium. This was in marked contrast to the TPC-1 control cell line, a thyroid tumour cell line which does not display the oncocytic phenotype. In agreement with these findings, subsequent experiments assessing the levels of cellular ATP over incubation time in galactose medium, showed a drastic and continual decrease in ATP levels only in the XTC-1 cell line. Furthermore, experiments on digitonin-permeabilised cells revealed that the respiratory dysfunction in the latter was due to a defect in complex I of the respiratory chain. Subsequent experiments using cybrids demonstrated that this defect could be attributed to the mitochondrially-encoded subunits of complex I as opposed to the nuclearencoded subunits. Confirmation came with mtDNA sequencing, which detected the presence of a novel mutation in the ND1 subunit of complex I. In addition, a mutation in the cytochrome b subunit of complex III of the respiratory chain was detected. The fact that XTC-1 cells are unable to survive when incubated in galactose medium is consistent with the fact that many cancers are largely dependent on glycolysis for energy production. Indeed, numerous studies have shown that glycolytic inhibitors are able to induce apoptosis in various cancer cell lines. Subsequent experiments were therefore performed in order to identify the mode of XTC-1 cell death when subjected to the metabolic stress imposed by the forced use of the mitochondria for energy production. Cell shrinkage and mitochondrial fragmentation were observed in the dying cells, which would indicate an apoptotic type of cell death. Analysis of additional parameters however revealed a lack of both DNA fragmentation and caspase activation, thus excluding a classical apoptotic type of cell death. Interestingly, cleavage of the actin component of the cytoskeleton was observed, implicating the action of proteases in this mode of cell demise. However, experiments employing protease inhibitors failed to identify the specific protease involved. It has been reported in the literature that overexpression of Bcl-2 is able to rescue cells presenting a respiratory deficiency. As the XTC-1 cell line is not only respiration-deficient but also exhibits a marked decrease in Bcl-2 expression, it is a perfect model with which to study the relationship between Bcl-2 and oxidative phosphorylation in respiratory-deficient cells. Contrary to the reported literature studies on various cell lines harbouring defects in the respiratory chain, Bcl-2 overexpression was not shown to increase cell survival or rescue the energetic dysfunction in XTC-1 cells. Interestingly however, it had a noticeable impact on cell adhesion and morphology. Whereas XTC-1 cells shrank and detached from the growth surface under conditions of metabolic stress, Bcl-2-overexpressing XTC-1 cells appeared much healthier and were up to 45% more adherent. The target of Bcl-2 in this setting appeared to be the actin cytoskeleton, as the cleavage observed in XTC-1 cells expressing only endogenous levels of Bcl-2, was inhibited in Bcl-2-overexpressing cells. Thus, although unable to rescue XTC-1 cells in terms of cell viability, Bcl-2 is somehow able to stabilise the cytoskeleton, resulting in modifications in cell morphology and adhesion. The mitochondrial respiratory deficiency observed in cancer cells is thought not only to cause an increased dependency on glycolysis but it is also thought to blunt cellular responses to anticancer agents. The effects of several therapeutic agents were thus assessed for their death-inducing ability in XTC-1 cells. Cell viability experiments clearly showed that the cells were more resistant to stimuli which generate reactive oxygen species (tert-butylhydroperoxide) and to mitochondrial calcium-mediated apoptotic stimuli (C6-ceramide), as opposed to stimuli inflicting DNA damage (cisplatin) and damage to protein kinases(staurosporine). Various studies in the literature have reported that the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-coactivator 1(PGC-1α), which plays a fundamental role in mitochondrial biogenesis, is also involved in protecting cells against apoptosis caused by the former two types of stimuli. In accordance with these observations, real-time PCR experiments showed that XTC-1 cells express higher mRNA levels of this coactivator than do the control cells, implicating its importance in drug resistance. In conclusion, this study has revealed that XTC-1 cells, like many cancer cell lines, are characterised by a reduced energetic efficiency due to mitochondrial dysfunction. Said dysfunction has been attributed to mutations in respiratory genes encoded by the mitochondrial genome. Although the mechanism of cell demise in conditions of metabolic stress is unclear, the potential of targeting thyroid oncocytic cancers using glycolytic inhibitors has been illustrated. In addition, the discovery of mtDNA mutations in XTC-1 cells has enabled the use of this cell line as a model with which to study the relationship between Bcl-2 overexpression and oxidative phosphorylation in cells harbouring mtDNA mutations and also to investigate the significance of such mutations in establishing resistance to apoptotic stimuli.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Hoque, Martha
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Data di discussione
3 Aprile 2008

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