Impact of metallothionein-knockdown on cisplatin resistance in malignant pleural mesothelioma

Scientific Reports 2020 October 29 [Link]

Sabrina Borchert, Pia-Maria Suckrau, Robert F H Walter, Michael Wessolly, Elena Mairinger, Julia Steinborn, Balazs Hegedus, Thomas Hager, Thomas Herold, Wilfried E E Eberhardt, Jeremias Wohlschlaeger, Clemens Aigner, Agnes Bankfalvi, Kurt Werner Schmid, Fabian D Mairinger


Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a rare, but aggressive tumor with dismal prognosis. Platinum-based chemotherapy is regularly used as part of multimodality therapy. The expression of metallothioneins (MT) has been identified as a reason for cisplatin resistance, which often leads to early therapy failure or relapse. Thus, knockdown of MT expression may improve response to cisplatin treatment. The MT gene- and protein expression of the MPM-cell lines MSTO-211H, NCI-H2052 and NCI-H2452 and the human fibroblast cell line MRC-5, as well as their sensitivity to cisplatin treatment have been evaluated. Knockdown of MT1A, 1B and 2A expression was induced by RNA interference. MT expression was measured using quantitative real-time PCR. An in vitro Assay based on enzyme activity was used to detect cell viability, necrosis and apoptosis before and after incubation with cisplatin. MT2A gene expression could be detected in all MPM cell lines, showing the highest expression in NCI-H2452 and NCI-H2052, whereas gene expression levels of MT1A and MT1B were low or absent. The immunohistochemically protein expression of MT-I/II reflect MT2A gene expression levels. Especially for MSTO-211H cell presenting low initial MT2A levels, a strong induction of MT2A expression could be observed during cisplatin treatment, indicating a cell line-specific and platin-dependent adaption mechanism. Additionally, a MT2A-dependent cellular evasion of apoptosis during cisplatin could be observed, leading to three different MT based phenotypes. MSTO-211H cells showed lower apoptosis rates at an increased expression level of MT2A after cisplatin treatment (from sixfold to fourfold). NCI-H2052 cells showed no changes in MT2A expression, while apoptosis rate is the highest (8-12-fold). NCI-H2452 cells showed neither changes in alteration rate of MT2A expression nor changes in apoptosis rates, indicating an MT2A-independent resistance mechanism. Knockdown of MT2A expression levels resulted in significantly induced apoptotic rates during cisplatin treatment with strongest induction of apoptosis in each of the MPM cell lines, but in different markedness. A therapeutic meaningful effect of MT2A knockdown and subsequent cisplatin treatment could be observed in MSTO-211H cells. The present study showed MT2A to be part of the underlying mechanism of cisplatin resistance in MPM. Especially in MSTO-211H cells we could demonstrate major effects by knockdown of MT2A expression, verifying our hypothesis of an MT driven resistance mechanism. We could prove the inhibition of MT2A as a powerful tool to boost response rates to cisplatin-based therapy in vitro. These data carry the potential to enhance the clinical outcome and management of MPM in the future.