HuR, an RNA-binding protein, post-transcriptionally regulates nearly 4% of encoding proteins implicated in cell survival. Here we show that HuR is required for the efficacy of chemotherapies in urothelial carcinoma of the bladder. We identify pyrvinium pamoate, an FDA-approved anthelminthic drug, as a novel HuR inhibitor that dose-dependently inhibited cytoplasmic accumulation of HuR. Combining pyrvinium pamoate with chemotherapeutic agents (e.g. cisplatin, doxorubicin, vincristine and oxaliplatin) not only led to enhanced cytotoxicity in bladder cancer cells but also synergistically suppressed the growth of patient-derived bladder tumor xenografts in mice (P < 0.001). Mechanistically, pyrvinium pamoate promoted nuclear import of HuR by activating the AMP-activated kinase/importin α1 cascade and blocked HuR nucleo-cytoplasmic translocation by inhibiting the checkpoint kinase1/cyclin-dependent kinase 1 pathway. Notably, pyrvinium pamoate-additive treatment increased DNA double-strand breaks as indicated by elevated γH2AX expression, suggesting an involvement of DNA damage response. We further found that pyrvinium pamoate dramatically downregulated several key DNA repair genes in genotoxically-stressed cells, including DNA ligase IV and BRCA2, leading to unbearable genomic instability and cell death. Collectively, our findings are the first to characterize a clinical HuR inhibitor and provide a novel therapeutically tractable strategy by targeting cytoplasmic translocation of HuR for treatment of urothelial carcinoma of the bladder.
Keywords: DNA damage response; RNA-binding protein; chemosensitivity; pyrvinium pamoate; urothelial carcinoma of the bladder.