Mitochondrial apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease 1 enhances mtDNA repair contributing to cell proliferation and mitochondrial integrity in early stages of hepatocellular carcinoma

Veronica Bazzani, Arianna Barchiesi, Dorota Radecka, Riccardo Pravisani, Antonio Guadagno, Carla Di Loreto, Umberto Baccarani, Carlo Vascotto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the leading cause of primary liver cancers. Surveillance of individuals at specific risk of developing HCC, early diagnostic markers, and new therapeutic approaches are essential to obtain a reduction in disease-related mortality. Apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease 1 (APE1) expression levels and its cytoplasmic localization have been reported to correlate with a lower degree of differentiation and shorter survival rate. The aim of this study is to fully investigate, for the first time, the role of the mitochondrial form of APE1 in HCC. Methods: As a study model, we analyzed samples from a cohort of patients diagnosed with HCC who underwent surgical resection. Mitochondrial APE1 content, expression levels of the mitochondrial import protein Mia40, and mtDNA damage of tumor tissue and distal non-tumor liver of each patient were analyzed. In parallel, we generated a stable HeLa clone for inducible silencing of endogenous APE1 and re-expression of the recombinant shRNA resistant mitochondrially targeted APE1 form (MTS-APE1). We evaluated mtDNA damage, cell growth, and mitochondrial respiration. Results: APE1's cytoplasmic positivity in Grades 1 and 2 HCC patients showed a significantly higher expression of mitochondrial APE1, which accounted for lower levels of mtDNA damage observed in the tumor tissue with respect to the distal area. In the contrast, the cytoplasmic positivity in Grade 3 was not associated with APE1's mitochondrial accumulation even when accounting for the higher number of mtDNA lesions measured. Loss of APE1 expression negatively affected mitochondrial respiration, cell viability, and proliferation as well as levels of mtDNA damage. Remarkably, the phenotype was efficiently rescued in MTS-APE1 clone, where APE1 is present only within the mitochondrial matrix. Conclusions: Our study confirms the prominent role of the mitochondrial form of APE1 in the early stages of HCC development and the relevance of the non-nuclear fraction of APE1 in the disease progression. We have also confirmed overexpression of Mia40 and the role of the MIA pathway in the APE1 import process. Based on our data, inhibition of the APE1 transport by blocking the MIA pathway could represent a new therapeutic approach for reducing mitochondrial metabolism by preventing the efficient repair of mtDNA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number969
JournalBMC Cancer
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 7 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • APE1
  • Base excision repair pathway
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • MIA pathway
  • Mitochondria
  • mtDNA damage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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