CD73 Regulates Stemness and Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition in Ovarian Cancer-Initiating Cells

Michela Lupia, Francesca Angiolini, Giovanni Bertalot, Stefano Freddi, Kris F. Sachsenmeier, Elisa Chisci, Barbara Kutryb-Zajac, Stefano Confalonieri, Ryszard T. Smolenski, Roberto Giovannoni, Nicoletta Colombo, Fabrizio Bianchi, Ugo Cavallaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Cancer-initiating cells (CICs) have been implicated in tumor development and aggressiveness. In ovarian carcinoma (OC), CICs drive tumor formation, dissemination, and recurrence, as well as drug resistance, thus accounting for the high death-to-incidence ratio of this neoplasm. However, the molecular mechanisms that underlie such a pathogenic role of ovarian CICs (OCICs) remain elusive. Here, we have capitalized on primary cells either from OC or from its tissues of origin to obtain the transcriptomic profile associated with OCICs. Among the genes differentially expressed in OCICs, we focused on CD73, which encodes the membrane-associated 5′-ectonucleotidase. The genetic inactivation of CD73 in OC cells revealed that this molecule is causally involved in sphere formation and tumor initiation, thus emerging as a driver of OCIC function. Furthermore, functional inhibition of CD73 via either a chemical compound or a neutralizing antibody reduced sphere formation and tumorigenesis, highlighting the druggability of CD73 in the context of OCIC-directed therapies. The biological function of CD73 in OCICs required its enzymatic activity and involved adenosine signaling. Mechanistically, CD73 promotes the expression of stemness and epithelial-mesenchymal transition-associated genes, implying a regulation of OCIC function at the transcriptional level. CD73, therefore, is involved in OCIC biology and may represent a therapeutic target for innovative treatments aimed at OC eradication. Cavallaro et al. characterized the transcriptome of OCIC-enriched primary cultures and found CD73 as an upregulated gene. CD73 was then shown to regulate the expression of stemness and EMT-associated genes. The expression and function of CD73 in OCICs is required for tumor initiation, and CD73-targeted drugs decrease the rate of tumor take and inhibit cancer growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1412-1425
Number of pages14
JournalStem Cell Reports
Volume10
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 10 2018

Keywords

  • adenosine
  • cancer stem cells
  • cancer-initiating cells
  • CD73
  • EMT
  • ovarian cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

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