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International journal of oncology

The presence of primary cilia in cancer cells does not predict responsiveness to modulation of smoothened activity.


PMID 25997440

Abstract

Primary cilia are microtubule-based organelles that regulate smoothened-dependent activation of the GLI transcription factors in canonical hedgehog signaling. In many cancers, primary cilia are markedly decreased or absent. The lack of primary cilia may inhibit or alter canonical hedgehog signaling and, thereby, interfere in the cellular responsiveness to modulators of smoothened activity. Clinical trials of smoothened antagonists for cancer treatment have shown the best response in basal cell carcinomas, with limited response in other solid tumors. To determine whether the presence or absence of primary cilia in cancer cells will predict their responsiveness to modulation of smoothened activity, we compared the ability of an agonist and/or inhibitor of smoothened (SAG and SANT1, respectively) to modulate GLI-mediated transcription, as measured by GLI1 mRNA level or GLI-luciferase reporter activity, in non-cancer cells with primary cilia (ovarian surface epithelial cells and breast fibroblasts), in cancer cells that cannot assemble primary cilia (MCF7, MDA-MB-231xa0cell lines), and in cancer cells with primary cilia (SKOV3, PANC1 cell lines). As expected, SAG and SANT1 resulted in appropriate modulation of GLI transcriptional activity in ciliated non-cancer cells, and failed to modulate GLI transcriptional activity in cancer cells without primary cilia. However, there was also no modulation of GLI transcriptional activity in either ciliated cancer cell line. SAG treatment of SKOV3 induced localization of smoothened to primary cilia, as assessed by immunofluorescence, even though there was no increase in GLI transcriptional activity, suggesting a defect in activation of SMO in the primary cilia or in steps later in the hedgehog pathway. In contrast to SKOV3, SAG treatment of PANC1 did not cause the localization of smoothened to primary cilia. Our data demonstrate that the presence of primary cilia in the cancer epithelial cells lines tested does not indicate their responsiveness to smoothened activation or inhibition.