Pkcα inhibition as a strategy to sensitize neuroblastoma stem cells to etoposide by stimulating ferroptosis

Lorenzo Monteleone, Andrea Speciale, Giulia Elda Valenti, Nicola Traverso, Silvia Ravera, Ombretta Garbarino, Riccardo Leardi, Emanuele Farinini, Antonella Roveri, Fulvio Ursini, Claudia Cantoni, Maria Adelaide Pronzato, Umberto Maria Marinari, Barbara Marengo, Cinzia Domenicotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a limited cell population inside a tumor bulk characterized by high levels of glutathione (GSH), the most important antioxidant thiol of which cysteine is the limiting amino acid for GSH biosynthesis. In fact, CSCs over-express xCT, a cystine transporter stabilized on cell membrane through interaction with CD44, a stemness marker whose expression is modulated by protein kinase Cα (PKCα). Since many chemotherapeutic drugs, such as Etoposide, exert their cytotoxic action by increasing reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, the presence of high antioxidant defenses confers to CSCs a crucial role in chemoresistance. In this study, Etoposide-sensitive and-resistant neuroblastoma CSCs were chronically treated with Etoposide, given alone or in combination with Sulfasalazine (SSZ) or with an inhibitor of PKCα (C2-4), which target xCT directly or indirectly, respectively. Both combined approaches are able to sensitize CSCs to Etoposide by decreasing intracellular GSH levels, inducing a metabolic switch from OXPHOS to aerobic glycolysis, down-regulating glutathione-peroxidase-4 activity and stimulating lipid peroxidation, thus leading to ferroptosis. Our results suggest, for the first time, that PKCα inhibition inducing ferroptosis might be a useful strategy with which to fight CSC chemoresistance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number691
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Cancer stem cells
  • Chemoresistance
  • Ferroptosis
  • Glutathione
  • GPX4
  • Lipid peroxidation
  • ZEB-1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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