Objective: Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) expressing cells have been characterized as possessing stem cell-like properties. We evaluated ALDH+ ovarian cancer stem cell-like properties and their role in platinum resistance.
Methods: Isogenic ovarian cancer cell lines for platinum sensitivity (A2780) and platinum resistant (A2780/CP70) as well as ascites from ovarian cancer patients were analyzed for ALDH+ by flow cytometry to determine its association to platinum resistance, recurrence and survival. A stable shRNA knockdown model for ALDH1A1 was utilized to determine its effect on cancer stem cell-like properties, cell cycle checkpoints, and DNA repair mediators.
Results: ALDH status directly correlated to platinum resistance in primary ovarian cancer samples obtained from ascites. Patients with ALDHHIGH displayed significantly lower progression free survival than the patients with ALDHLOW cells (9 vs. 3 months, respectively p<0.01). ALDH1A1-knockdown significantly attenuated clonogenic potential, PARP-1 protein levels, and reversed inherent platinum resistance. ALDH1A1-knockdown resulted in dramatic decrease of KLF4 and p21 protein levels thereby leading to S and G2 phase accumulation of cells. Increases in S and G2 cells demonstrated increased expression of replication stress associated Fanconi Anemia DNA repair proteins (FANCD2, FANCJ) and replication checkpoint (pS317 Chk1) were affected. ALDH1A1-knockdown induced DNA damage, evidenced by robust induction of γ-H2AX and BAX mediated apoptosis, with significant increases in BRCA1 expression, suggesting ALDH1A1-dependent regulation of cell cycle checkpoints and DNA repair networks in ovarian cancer stem-like cells.
Conclusion: This data suggests that ovarian cancer cells expressing ALDH1A1 may maintain platinum resistance by altered regulation of cell cycle checkpoint and DNA repair network signaling.