Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Vol.533, No.4, 1083-1087, 2020
SLC7A11 as a biomarker and therapeutic target in HPV-positive head and neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Ferroptosis, a regulated form of cell necrosis was previously reported to be induced upon pharmacological targeting of the cystine transporter SLC7A11 in Head and neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC). Whether tumors arising in a context of chronic infection with Human Papillomavirus (HPV) are sensitive to ferroptosis is unknown. Using RNAseq data (both whole-tumor and single-cell sequencing) we report that HPV positive (HPVthornve) tumors have lower expression levels of SLC7A11 compared to HPV negative (HPV-ve) HNSCC. We examined in vitro the effect of erastin, a specific blocker of SLC7A11, applied on two HNSCC cell lines with stable expression of HPV16 E6 and E7 oncoproteins. We report a decrease in total GSH levels and an increased sensitivity to erastin-induced ferroptosis in E6-E7 cells. Cell sensitivity to ferroptosis was specificaly related to a defect in cystine transport since we found no difference in ferroptosis induced by the direct inhibition of GPX4, and N-Acetyl Cystein abolished the difference between WT and E6-E7-expressing cells. Our findings point to SLC7A11 as an HPV-related biomarker of potential therapeutic relevance in HNSCC. Targeting cystine import to promote ferroptosis might be a promising strategy against HPVthornve HNSCC. (188 words). (C) 2020 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.