Mitochondriopathy is emerging as a new cancer theory; however, the relevance of mitochondrial pathobiology in breast cancer has not yet been completely explored. Herein we report on altered expression levels of the oxidative phosphorylation system (OXPHOS) subunits, mitochondrial structural injury and impaired ATP content from a breast-infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC). With this purpose, a human mammary carcinoma (HMC-1) cell, referred to a human mammary epithelial cell (HMEC) line, was assayed for: a) OXPHOS levels by quantitative cryo-immunoelectron microscopy (CIEM) labeling; b) morphological characterization by a newly introduced damage grading (scale Mt-g1-3), calculated on the % of intact cristae carrying mitochondria; c) bioenergetic impairment by luminometric determinations of cellular ATP content and cytochemical visualization of COX activity. Drastic OXPHOS reduction was observed in HMC-1 cells for the succinate-dehydrogenase complex II SDH-B protein, while decreasing was reported for the NADH-ubiquinone oxidoreductase complex I NDUFS3 and the ubiquinol cytochrome c reductase complex III UQCRC2 subunits. A significant dropping was detected for the ATP-synthase complex V F1β protein. For the COX complex near-depletion of the mitochondrial-encoded COXI and no apparent variation of the COXIV subunits were observed. Injury grading was categorized assigning three levels of morphological damage in HMC-1 mitochondria: i) severe (4.6%), ii) moderate (23.1%), iii) slight (44.6%), corresponding to 0%, 1-50% and 51-75% of area occupied by intact cristae. ATP generation and COX activity appeared significantly reduced in HMC-1 cells. The structural damage grading here described could provide new insight on IDC mitochondrial impairment and represent hallmark in the breast cancer mitochondriopathy.
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