Research Papers:

The roles of AKR1C1 and AKR1C2 in ethyl-3,4-dihydroxybenzoate induced esophageal squamous cell carcinoma cell death

Wei Li _, Guixue Hou, Dianrong Zhou, Xiaomin Lou, Yang Xu, Siqi Liu and Xiaohang Zhao

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:21542-21555. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.7775

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Wei Li1,*, Guixue Hou2,3,4,*, Dianrong Zhou5, Xiaomin Lou2, Yang Xu1, Siqi Liu2,4, Xiaohang Zhao1

1State Key Laboratory of Molecular Oncology, Cancer Hospital, Peking Union Medical College & Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China

2CAS Key Laboratory of Genome Sciences and Information, Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

3University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

4Proteomics Division, BGI-Shenzhen, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China

5Third School of Clinical Medicine, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Xiaohang Zhao, e-mail: [email protected]

Siqi Liu, e-mail: [email protected]

Yang Xu, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: aldo-keto reductase 1C1/C2, ethyl-3, 4-dihydroxybenzoate, MRM, ESCC

Received: November 19, 2015    Accepted: February 20, 2016    Published: February 27, 2016


The aldo-keto reductase (AKR) superfamily of enzymes is critical for the detoxification of drugs and toxins in the human body; these enzymes are involved not only in the development of drug resistance in cancer cells but also in the metabolism of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Here, we demonstrated that AKR1C1/C2 increased the metabolism of ethyl-3,4-dihydroxybenzoate (EDHB) in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) cells. Previous studies have shown that EDHB can effectively induce esophageal cancer cell autophagy and apoptosis, and the AKR1C family represents one set of highly expressed genes after EDHB treatment. To explore the cytotoxic effects of EDHB, esophageal cancer cells with higher (KYSE180) or lower (KYSE510) AKR1C expression levels were evaluated in this study. The proliferation of KYSE180 cells was inhibited more effectively than that of KYSE510 cells by EDHB treatment. Furthermore, the effective subunits of the AKR superfamily, AKR1C1/C2, were quantitatively identified using multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) assays. The sensitivity of esophageal cancer cells to EDHB was significantly attenuated by the siRNA knockdown of AKR1C1/C2. Moreover, the expression of autophagy inducers (Beclin, LC3II and BNIP3) and NDRG1 was significantly elevated in KYSE180 cells, but not in KYSE510 cells, after EDHB treatment. When autophagy was inhibited by 3-methyladenine, KYSE180 cells exhibited an increased sensitivity to EDHB, which may be a metabolic substrate of AKR1C1/C2. These results indicated that ESCC patients with high AKR1C1/C2 expression may be more sensitive to EDHB, and AKR1C1/C2 may facilitate EDHB-induced autophagy and apoptosis, thus providing potential guidance for the chemoprevention of ESCC.

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