The alpha1 subunit of the sodium pump could represent a novel target to combat non-small cell lung cancers

J Pathol. 2007 Jun;212(2):170-9. doi: 10.1002/path.2172.


With an overall 5 year survival rate as low as 15% for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), even with surgical intervention and the use of newer molecules in adjuvant chemotherapy, there is an urgent need for new biological targets and associated novel anti-cancer agents. The present study was undertaken to evaluate the potential of the Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase alpha1 subunit as a novel target in NSCLC and revealed that alpha1 expression is markedly higher in a significant proportion of NSCLC clinical samples compared to normal lung tissue. Furthermore, reduction in alpha1 expression in A549 NSCLC cells by anti-alpha1 siRNA resulted in markedly impaired proliferation and migration of these cancer cells. Finally, of three cardenolides investigated, UNBS1450, which is known to bind to Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase and displays potent anti-tumour activity in vivo in experimental models of human NSCLCs, is the most potent inhibitor of Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase isozymes (alpha1beta1, alpha2beta1 and alpha3beta1), most strikingly of alpha1beta1. This was reflected in the compound's more potent anti-proliferative activity in all NSCLC cell lines evaluated (A549, Cal-12T, NCI-H727 and A427); the first three of which over-express alpha1. The marked impairment in A549 NSCLC cell proliferation and migration, and resulting similar morphology following anti-alpha1 siRNA or UNBS1450 treatment, was associated with features of abnormal cytokinesis, mediated in the case of UNBS1450 by disorganization of the actin cytoskeleton. Collectively these data strongly suggest that targeting the Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase alpha1 using specific cardenolides could represent a novel means to combat certain NSCLCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / enzymology
  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / enzymology*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / enzymology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics
  • Cardenolides / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival
  • Down-Regulation / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Lung Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Rats
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase / analysis*
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase / antagonists & inhibitors


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cardenolides
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • UNBS 1450
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase