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PLoS One. 2017 Sep 25;12(9):e0184922. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0184922. eCollection 2017.

Modulating lysosomal function through lysosome membrane permeabilization or autophagy suppression restores sensitivity to cisplatin in refractory non-small-cell lung cancer cells.

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Feist-Weiller Cancer Center, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-Shreveport, Shreveport, Louisiana, United States of America.
Segue Therapeutics, LLC, Shreveport, Louisiana, United States of America.
Thoracic Oncology Research Group, Trinity Translational Medicine Institute, Trinity Centre for Health Sciences, St. James's Hospital & Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.
Cancer & Ageing Research Program, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.


Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Most patients develop resistance to platinum within several months of treatment. We investigated whether triggering lysosomal membrane permeabilization (LMP) or suppressing autophagy can restore cisplatin susceptibility in lung cancer with acquired chemoresistance. Cisplatin IC50 in A549Pt (parental) and A549cisR (cisplatin resistant) cells was 13 μM and 47 μM, respectively. Following cisplatin exposure, A549cisR cells failed to elicit an apoptotic response. This was manifested by diminished Annexin-V staining, caspase 3 and 9, BAX and BAK activation in resistant but not in parental cells. Chloroquine preferentially promoted LMP in A549cisR cells, revealed by leakage of FITC-dextran into the cytosol as detected by immunofluorescence microscopy. This was confirmed by increased cytosolic cathepsin D signal on Immunoblot. Cell viability of cisplatin-treated A549cisR cells was decreased when co-treated with chloroquine, corresponding to a combination index below 0.8, suggesting synergism between the two drugs. Notably, chloroquine activated the mitochondrial cell death pathway as indicated by increase in caspase 9 activity. Interestingly, inhibition of lysosomal proteases using E64 conferred cytoprotection against cisplatin and chloroquine co-treatment, suggesting that chloroquine-induced cell death occurred in a cathepsin-mediated mechanism. Likewise, blockage of caspases partially rescued A549cisR cells against the cytotoxicity of cisplatin and chloroquine combination. Cisplatin promoted a dose-dependent autophagic flux induction preferentially in A549cisR cells, as evidenced by a surge in LC3-II/α-tubulin following pre-treatment with E64 and increase in p62 degradation. Compared to untreated cells, cisplatin induced an increase in cyto-ID-loaded autophagosomes in A549cisR cells that was further amplified by chloroquine, pointing toward autophagic flux activation by cisplatin. Interestingly, this effect was less pronounced in A549Pt cells. Blocking autophagy by ATG5 depletion using siRNA markedly enhances susceptibility to cisplatin in A549cisR cells. Taken together, our results underscore the utility of targeting lysosomal function in overcoming acquired cisplatin refractoriness in lung cancer.

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