Background: Claudin-4, a tight junction (TJ) protein and receptor for the C-terminal fragment of Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin (C-CPE), is overexpressed in epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). Previous research suggests DNA methylation is a mechanism for claudin-4 overexpression in cancer and that C-CPE acts as an absorption-enhancing agent in claudin-4-expressing cells. We sought to correlate claudin-4 overexpression in EOC with clinical outcomes and TJ barrier function, investigate DNA methylation as a mechanism for overexpression, and evaluate the effect of C-CPE on the TJ.
Methods: Claudin-4 expression in EOC was quantified and correlated with clinical outcomes. Claudin-4 methylation status was determined, and claudin-4-negative cell lines were treated with a demethylating agent. Electric cell-substrate impedance sensing was used to calculate junctional (paracellular) resistance (Rb) in EOC cells after claudin-4 silencing and after C-CPE treatment.
Results: Claudin-4 overexpression in EOC does not correlate with survival or other clinical endpoints and is associated with hypomethylation. Claudin-4 overexpression correlates with Rb and C-CPE treatment of EOC cells significantly decreased Rb in a dose- and claudin-4-dependent noncytotoxic manner.
Conclusions: C-CPE treatment of EOC cells leads to altered TJ function. Further research is needed to determine the potential clinical applications of C-CPE in EOC drug delivery strategies.