FOXO3a protects glioma cells against temozolomide-induced DNA double strand breaks via promotion of BNIP3-mediated mitophagy

Chuan He1,2, Shan Lu1,2, Xuan-zhong Wang1,2, Chong-cheng Wang1,2, Lei Wang1,2, Shi-peng Liang1,2, Tian-fei Luo2,3, Zhen-chuan Wang1,2, Mei-hua Piao4, Guang-fan Chi5, Peng-fei Ge1,2
1 Department of Neurosurgery, First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun 130021, China
2 Research Center of Neuroscience, First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun 130021, China
3 Department of Neurology, First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun 130021, China
4 Department of Anesthesiology, First hospital of Jilin University, Changchun 130021, China
5 Key Laboratory of Pathobiology, Ministry of Education, Jilin University, Changchun 130021, China
Correspondence to: Peng-fei Ge:,
DOI: 10.1038/s41401-021-00663-y
Received: 6 December 2020
Accepted: 17 March 2021
Advance online: 20 April 2021


FOXO3a (forkhead box transcription factor 3a) is involved in regulating multiple biological processes in cancer cells. BNIP3 (Bcl-2/ adenovirus E1B 19-kDa-interacting protein 3) is a receptor accounting for priming damaged mitochondria for autophagic removal. In this study we investigated the role of FOXO3a in regulating the sensitivity of glioma cells to temozolomide (TMZ) and its relationship with BNIP3-mediated mitophagy. We showed that TMZ dosage-dependently inhibited the viability of human U87, U251, T98G, LN18 and rat C6 glioma cells with IC50 values of 135.75, 128.26, 142.65, 155.73 and 111.60 μM, respectively. In U87 and U251 cells, TMZ (200 μM) induced DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) and nuclear translocation of apoptosis inducing factor (AIF), which was accompanied by BNIP3-mediated mitophagy and FOXO3a accumulation in nucleus. TMZ treatment induced intracellular ROS accumulation in U87 and U251 cells via enhancing mitochondrial superoxide, which not only contributed to DNA DSBs and exacerbated mitochondrial dysfunction, but also upregulated FOXO3a expression. Knockdown of FOXO3a aggravated TMZ-induced DNA DSBs and mitochondrial damage, as well as glioma cell death. TMZ treatment not only upregulated BNIP3 and activated autophagy, but also triggered mitophagy by prompting BNIP3 translocation to mitochondria and reinforcing BNIP3 interaction with LC3BII. Inhibition of mitophagy by knocking down BNIP3 with SiRNA or blocking autophagy with 3MA or bafilomycin A1 exacerbated mitochondrial superoxide and intracellular ROS accumulation. Moreover, FOXO3a knockdown inhibited TMZ-induced BNIP3 upregulation and autophagy activation. In addition, we showed that treatment with TMZ (100 mg·kg−1·d−1, ip) for 12 days in C6 cell xenograft mice markedly inhibited tumor growth accompanied by inducing FOXO3a upregulation, oxidative stress and BNIP3-mediated mitophagy in tumor tissues. These results demonstrate that FOXO3a attenuates temozolomide-induced DNA double strand breaks in human glioma cells via promoting BNIP3-mediated mitophagy.
Keywords: glioma; temozolomide; DNA double strand break; oxidative stress; mitochondrial superoxide; BNIP3; FOXO3a; mitophagy; 3MA; bafilomycin A

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