Nitric oxide : biology and chemistry

Dual role of NO donors in the reversal of tumor cell resistance and EMT: Downregulation of the NF-κB/Snail/YY1/RKIP circuitry.

PMID 20933602


Several studies have implicated the role of Nitric Oxide (NO) in the regulation of tumor cell behavior and have shown that NO either promotes or inhibits tumorigenesis. These conflicting findings have been resolved, in part, by the levels of NO used such that low levels promote tumor growth and high levels inhibit tumor growth. Our studies have focused on the use of high levels of NO provided primarily by the NO donor, DETANONOate. We have shown that treatment of resistant tumor cells with DETANONOate sensitizes them to apoptosis by both chemotherapeutic drugs and cytotoxic immunotherapeutic ligands. The underlying mechanisms by which NO sensitizes tumor cells to apoptosis were shown to be regulated, in part, by NO-mediated inhibition of the NF-κB survival/anti-apoptotic pathways and downstream of NF-κB by inhibition of the transcription factor Yin Yang 1 (YY1). In addition to NO-induced sensitization to apoptosis, we have also shown that NO induced the expression of the metastasis-suppressor/immunosurveillance cancer gene product, Raf-1 kinase inhibitor protein (RKIP). Overexpression of RKIP mimics NO in tumor cells-induced sensitization to apoptosis. The induction of RKIP by NO was the result of the inhibition of the RKIP repressor, Snail, downstream of NF-κB. These findings established the presence of a dysregulated NF-κB/Snail/YY1/ RKIP circuitry in resistance and that treatment with NO modifies this loop in tumor cells in favor of the inhibition of tumor cell survival and the response to cytotoxic drugs. Noteworthy, the NF-κB/Snail/YY1/RKIP loop consists of gene products that regulate the epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and, thus, tumor metastasis. Hence, we have found that treatment of metastatic cancer cell lines with DETANONOate inhibited the EMT phenotype, through both the inhibition of the metastasis-inducers, NF-κB and Snail and the induction of the metastasis-suppressor, RKIP. Altogether, the above findings establish, for the first time, the dual role of high levels of NO in the sensitization of tumor cells to apoptotic stimuli as well as inhibition of EMT. Hence, NO donors may be considered as novel potential therapeutic agents with dual roles in the treatment of patients with refractory cancer and in the prevention of the initiation of the metastatic cascade via EMT.