Apolipoprotein C1 promotes glioblastoma tumorigenesis by reducing KEAP1/NRF2 and CBS-regulated ferroptosis

Xiang-jin Zheng1,2, Wen-lin Chen3, Jie Yi4, Wan Li1,2, Jin-yi Liu1,2, Wei-qi Fu1,2, Li-wen Ren1,2, Sha Li1,2, Bin-bin Ge1,2, Yi-hui Yang1,2, Yi-zhi Zhang1,2, Hong Yang1,2, Guan-hua Du1,2, Yu Wang3, Jin-hua Wang1,2
1 The State Key Laboratory of Bioactive Substance and Function of Natural Medicines, Beijing 100050, China
2 Key Laboratory of Drug Target Research and Drug Screen, Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Medical Science and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing 100050, China
3 Department of Neurosurgery, Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Peking Union Medical College and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing 100730, China
4 Department of Clinical Laboratory, Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Beijing 100730, China
Correspondence to: Yu Wang:, Jin-hua Wang:,
DOI: 10.1038/s41401-022-00917-3
Received: 4 January 2022
Accepted: 25 April 2022
Advance online: 17 May 2022


Glioblastoma (GBM), a malignant brain tumor, is a world-wide health problem because of its poor prognosis and high rates of recurrence and mortality. Apolipoprotein C1 (APOC1) is the smallest of apolipoproteins, implicated in many diseases. Recent studies have shown that APOC1 promotes tumorigenesis and development of several types of cancer. In this study we investigated the role of APOC1 in GBM tumorigenesis. Using in silico assays we showed that APOC1 was highly expressed in GBM tissues and its expression was closely related to GBM progression. We showed that APOC1 protein expression was markedly increased in four GBM cell lines (U251, U138, A172 and U87) compared to the normal brain glia cell lines (HEB, HA1800). In U251 cells, overexpression of APOC1 promoted cell proliferation, migration, invasion and colony information, which was reversed by APOC1 knockdown. APOC1 knockdown also markedly inhibited the growth of GBM xenografts in the ventricle of nude mice. We further demonstrated that APOC1 reduced ferroptosis by inhibiting KEAP1, promoting nuclear translocation of NRF2 and increasing expression of HO-1 and NQO1 in GBM cells. APOC1 also induced ferroptosis resistance by increasing cystathionine beta-synthase (CBS) expression, which promoted trans-sulfuration and increased GSH synthesis, ultimately leading to an increase in glutathione peroxidase-4 (GPX4). Thus, APOC1 plays a key role in GBM tumorigenesis, conferring resistance to ferroptosis, and may be a promising therapeutic target for GBM.
Keywords: glioblastoma; tumorigenesis; APOC1; ferroptosis; lipid ROS; NRF2; CBS

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