PloS one

Calpain-3 impairs cell proliferation and stimulates oxidative stress-mediated cell death in melanoma cells.

PMID 25658320


Calpain-3 is an intracellular cysteine protease, belonging to Calpain superfamily and predominantly expressed in skeletal muscle. In human melanoma cell lines and biopsies, we previously identified two novel splicing variants (hMp78 and hMp84) of Calpain-3 gene (CAPN3), which have a significant lower expression in vertical growth phase melanomas and, even lower, in metastases, compared to benign nevi. In the present study, in order to investigate the pathophysiological role played by the longer Calpain-3 variant, hMp84, in melanoma cells, we over-expressed it in A375 and HT-144 cells. In A375 cells, the enforced expression of hMp84 induces p53 stabilization, and modulates the expression of a few p53- and oxidative stress-related genes. Consistently, hMp84 increases the intracellular production of ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species), which lead to oxidative modification of phospholipids (formation of F2-isoprostanes) and DNA damage. Such events culminate in an adverse cell fate, as indicated by the decrease of cell proliferation and by cell death. To a different extent, either the antioxidant N-acetyl-cysteine or the p53 inhibitor, Pifithrin-α, recover cell viability and decrease ROS formation. Similarly to A375 cells, hMp84 over-expression causes inhibition of cell proliferation, cell death, and increase of both ROS levels and F2-isoprostanes also in HT-144 cells. However, in these cells no p53 accumulation occurs. In both cell lines, no significant change of cell proliferation and cell damage is observed in cells over-expressing the mutant hMp84C42S devoid of its enzymatic activity, suggesting that the catalytic activity of hMp84 is required for its detrimental effects. Since a more aggressive phenotype is expected to benefit from down-regulation of mechanisms impairing cell growth and survival, we envisage that Calpain-3 down-regulation can be regarded as a novel mechanism contributing to melanoma progression.