International Journal of Molecular Sciences: Therapeutic Targeting of Ovarian Cancer Stem Cells Using Estrogen Receptor Beta Agonist (Lai)

Yi He 1,2, Salvador  Alejo 1, Prabhakar Pitta Venkata 1, Jessica D. Johnson 1, Ilanna Loeffel 1, Uday P. Pratap 1, Yi Zou 3, Zhao Lai 3, Rajeshwar R. Tekmal 1,4, Edward R. Kost 1 and Gangadhara R. Sareddy 1,4,*

Ovarian cancer (OCa) is the deadliest gynecologic cancer. Emerging studies suggest ovarian cancer stem cells (OCSCs) contribute to chemotherapy resistance and tumor relapse. Recent studies demonstrated estrogen receptor beta (ERβ) exerts tumor suppressor functions in OCa. However, the status of ERβ expression in OCSCs and the therapeutic utility of the ERβ agonist LY500307 for targeting OCSCs remain unknown. OCSCs were enriched from ES2, OV90, SKOV3, OVSAHO, and A2780 cells using the ALDEFLUOR kit. RT-qPCR results showed that ERβ, particularly ERβ isoform 1, is highly expressed in OCSCs and that ERβ agonist LY500307 significantly reduced the viability of OCSCs. Treatment of OCSCs with LY500307 significantly reduced sphere formation, self-renewal, and invasion while promoting apoptosis and G2/M cell cycle arrest. Mechanistic studies using RNA-seq analysis demonstrated that LY500307 treatment resulted in modulation of pathways related to cell cycle and apoptosis. Western blot and RT-qPCR assays demonstrated the upregulation of apoptosis and cell cycle arrest genes such as FDXR, p21/CDKN1A, cleaved PARP, and caspase 3, the downregulation of stemness markers SOX2, Oct4, and Nanog. Importantly, treatment of LY500307 significantly attenuated the tumor-initiating capacity of OCSCs in orthotopic OCa murine xenograft models. Our results demonstrate that ERβ agonist LY500307 is highly efficacious in reducing the stemness and promoting apoptosis of OCSCs and shows significant promise as a novel therapeutic agent in treating OCa.
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