Modulation of reactive oxygen species via ERK and STAT3 dependent signalling are involved in the response of mesothelioma cells to exemestane

Barbara Nuvoli, Emanuela Camera, Arianna Mastrofrancesco, Stefania Briganti, Rossella Galati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pleural mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer. The prognosis is extremely poor due to the limited treatment modalities. Uptake of asbestos fibres, the leading cause of mesothelioma, lead to the accumulation of reactive-oxygen-species (ROS). Interestingly, increasing ROS production by using ROS-generating drugs may offer a strategy to selectively trigger cell death. Exemestane, an aromatase inhibitor, has previously shown anti-tumor properties in mesothelioma preclinical models suggesting a role of G protein-coupled receptor 30 (GPR30) in the drug response. As exemestane, in addition to blocking estrogen biosynthesis, generates ROS that are able to arrest the growth of breast cancer, we explored the role of ROS, antioxidant defense system, and ROS-induced signalling pathways in mesothelioma cells during exemestane response. Here we report that exemestane treatment reduced cell proliferation with an increase in ROS production and reduction of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) levels in MSTO-H211, Ist-Mes1, Ist-Mes2 and MPP89 exemestane-sensitive mesothelioma cell lines, but not in NCI-H2452 exemestane-insensitive mesothelioma cells. Exemestane induced a significant antioxidant response in NCI-H2452 cells, as highlighted by an increase in γ-glutamylcysteine levels, catalase (Cat), superoxide-dismutase and (SOD) and glutathione-peroxidase (GSH-Px) activity and nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) activation, responsible for drug insensitivity. Conversely, exemestane elevated ROS levels along with increased ERK phosphorylation and a reduction of p-STA3 in exemestane-sensitive mesothelioma cells. ROS generation was the crucial event of exemestane action because ROS inhibitor N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) abrogated p-ERK and p-STAT3 modulation and cellular death. Exemestane also modulates ERK and STAT3 signalling via GPR30. Results indicate an essential role of ROS in the antiproliferative action of exemestane in mesothelioma cells. It is likely that the additional oxidative insults induced by exemestane results in the lethal effects of mesothelioma cells by increasing ROS production. As such, manipulating ROS levels with exemestane seems to be a feasible strategy to selectively kill mesothelioma cells with less toxicity to normal cells by regulating ERK and STAT3 activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-277
Number of pages12
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2018


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