Anti-pyroptotic function of TGF-β is suppressed by a synthetic dsRNA analogue in triple negative breast cancer cells

Mol Oncol. 2021 May;15(5):1289-1307. doi: 10.1002/1878-0261.12890. Epub 2021 Jan 4.


Development of innovative therapeutic modalities would address an unmet clinical need in the treatment of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Activation of retinoic acid-inducible gene-I (RIG-I)-like receptors (RLRs) such as melanoma differentiation-associated gene 5 (MDA5) and RIG-I in cancer cells is suggested to suppress tumor progression by inducing cell death. Transfection of polyI:C, a conventionally used synthetic double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) analogue that activates RLRs, has been evaluated in clinical trials. However, detailed mechanisms of tumor suppression by RLRs, especially interactions with other signaling pathways, remain elusive. Here, we showed that transfection of polyI:C suppressed transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) signaling in a MDA5- and RIG-I-dependent manner. We found that suppression of TGF-β signaling by polyI:C promoted cancer cell death, which was attenuated by forced expression of constitutively active Smad3. More detailed analysis suggested that cell death by polyI:C transfection exhibited characteristics of pyroptosis, which is distinct from apoptosis. Therapeutic efficacy of polyI:C transfection was also demonstrated using a mouse model. These results indicated that intratumor administration of polyI:C and related dsRNA analogues may be promising treatments for TNBC through inhibition of the anti-pyroptotic function of TGF-β.

Keywords: RLR; TGF-β; TNBC; polyI:C; pyroptosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Down-Regulation / drug effects
  • Down-Regulation / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Poly I-C / pharmacology
  • Poly I-C / therapeutic use
  • Pyroptosis* / drug effects
  • Pyroptosis* / genetics
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / chemical synthesis
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / pharmacology*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • THP-1 Cells
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / pharmacology*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Poly I-C