Journal of cellular biochemistry

RANK Ligand Modulation of Autophagy in Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma Tumor Cells.

PMID 26095774


Autophagy is a cellular process to recycle nutrients and has been implicated in cancer treatment. Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is the most common oral cancer which ranks 3% of cancers in men and 2% in women. In this study, immunohistochemical staining of OSCC tumor specimens from human subjects and an athymic mouse model demonstrated high levels of autophagy markers LC3-II and ATG5 expression. Further, we identified high levels LC3-II expression in OSCC tumor cell lines (SCC-1, SCC-12, and SCC-14a) compared to normal human epithelial (RWPE-1) cells. OSCC cells express high levels of RANK ligand (RANKL); however, a functional role in autophagy is unknown. Interestingly, RANKL stimulation significantly increased autophagosome-related gene expressions such as LC3, ATG5, BECN1, and PI3KC3 mRNA expression in OSCC cells. Further, Western blot analysis of total cell lysates demonstrated a dose-dependent increase in LC3-II and ATG5 expression in RANKL-stimulated cells. In addition, RANKL increased expression of LC3-I and LC3-II, essential for autophagosome formation. Confocal microscopy analysis of LC3-II and localization with lysosome further confirms autophagosome formation in response to RANKL treatment in OSCC cells. Collectively, our results indicate a novel function of RANKL to induce autophagosome formation, and could be a potential therapeutic target to control OSCC tumor progression.