Metadherin enhances vulnerability of cancer cells to ferroptosis


Ferroptosis is an iron-dependent, non-apoptotic form of regulated cell death driven by lipid hydroperoxides within biological membranes. Although therapy-resistant mesenchymal-high cancers are particularly vulnerable to ferroptosis inducers, especially phospholipid glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPx4) inhibitors, the underlying mechanism is yet to be deciphered. As such, the full application of GPx4 inhibitors in cancer therapy remains challenging. Here we demonstrate that metadherin (MTDH) confers a therapy-resistant mesenchymal-high cell state and enhanced sensitivity to inducers of ferroptosis. Mechanistically, MTDH inhibited GPx4, as well as the solute carrier family 3 member 2 (SLC3A2, a system Xc- heterodimerization partner), at both the messenger RNA and protein levels. Our metabolomic studies demonstrated that MTDH reduced intracellular cysteine, but increased glutamate levels, ultimately decreasing levels of glutathione and setting the stage for increased vulnerability to ferroptosis. Finally, we observed an enhanced antitumor effect when we combined various ferroptosis inducers both in vitro and in vivo; the level of MTDH correlated with the ferroptotic effect. We have demonstrated for the first time that MTDH enhances the vulnerability of cancer cells to ferroptosis and may serve as a therapeutic biomarker for future ferroptosis-centered cancer therapy.

In Cell Death and Disease
Nick Borcherding
Nick Borcherding
Assistant Professor

My research includes systems immunology, single-cell sequencing technology, and computational frameworks.