Impact of Lysosomal Function in Cancer and Apoptosis

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköping University Electronic Press

Abstract: Lysosomes, the recycling units of the cell, participate in the signaling pathway to apoptosis, which has stimulated the search for anti-cancer drugs targeting the lysosomal compartment. Lysosomes are, however, often altered in cancer cells. The aim of this thesis was to investigate the involvement of lysosomes during apoptosis in normal and cancer cells. We developed and used flow cytometric methods to measure cytosolic and lysosomal pH in cells. The cytosolic pH of U937 cells decreased, in a caspase-independent way, by 1.4 pH-units during apoptosis. Concomitantly, the lysosomal pH increased from 4.3 to 5.2, suggesting that proton release from lysosomes might be responsible for cytosolic acidification. When studying the lysosomal pH of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cell lines and normal oral keratinocytes (NOKs), the pH was significantly increased in three of five HNSCC cell lines, as compared to NOKs. Moreover, high lysosomal pH correlated to low expression of the B subunit of the vacuolar V0/V1-ATPase, a necessary component of the proton pump responsible for lysosomal acidification, and to reduced intrinsic cisplatin sensitivity. Cisplatin-induced apoptosis was, at least partly, dependent on lysosomal cathepsins. When investigating the colony formation ability of the two HNSCC cell lines LK0412 and SqCC/Y1, both were found to give rise to holoclones, indicating the presence of cells with cancer stem cell properties. Holoclone cells from the LK0412 cell line were less sensitive to cisplatin compared to more differentiated paraclone cells. Moreover, we detected differences in intracellular localization of the lysosomal compartment and expression of cathepsins between holo- and paraclone cells.This thesis shows that changes found in the lysosomal compartment of cancer cells, such as alteration of lysosomal pH, might influence the outcome of a drug treatment. In addition, differences in drug sensitivity between subpopulations of tumor cells may affect the outcome of an anticancer therapy.