Targeting mitochondrial iron metabolism suppresses tumor growth and metastasis by inducing mitochondrial dysfunction and mitophagy

Cristian Sandoval-Acuña, Natalia Torrealba, Veronika Tomkova, Sukanya B. Jadhav, Kristyna Blazkova, Ladislav Merta, Sandra Lettlova, Miroslava K. Adamcova, Daniel Rosel, Jan Brabek, Jiri Neuzil, Jan Stursa, Lukas Werner, Jaroslav Truksa
Cancer Research2021
Deferoxamine (DFO) represents a widely used iron chelator for the treatment of iron overload. Here we describe the use of mitochondrially targeted deferoxamine (mitoDFO) as a novel approach to preferentially target cancer cells. The agent showed marked cytostatic, cytotoxic, and migrastatic properties in vitro, and it significantly suppressed tumor growth and metastasis in vivo. The underlying molecular mechanisms included (i) impairment of iron-sulfur [Fe-S] cluster/heme biogenesis, leading to destabilization and loss of activity of [Fe-S] cluster/heme containing enzymes, (ii) inhibition of mitochondrial respiration leading to mitochondrial reactive oxygen species production, resulting in dysfunctional mitochondria with markedly reduced supercomplexes, and (iii) fragmentation of the mitochondrial network and induction of mitophagy. Mitochondrial targeting of deferoxamine represents a way to deprive cancer cells of biologically active iron, which is incompatible with their proliferation and invasion, without disrupting systemic iron metabolism. Our findings highlight the importance of mitochondrial iron metabolism for cancer cells and demonstrate repurposing deferoxamine into an effective anticancer drug via mitochondrial targeting. and biogenesis of [Fe-S] clusters/heme in cancer cells, which suppresses proliferation and migration and induces cell death.

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