Purpose: Aurora kinase B (AURKB) plays a pivotal role in the regulation of mitosis and is gaining prominence as a therapeutic target in cancers; however, the role of AURKB in retinoblastoma (RB) has not been studied. The purpose of this study was to determine if AURKB plays a role in RB, how its expression is regulated, and whether it could be specifically targeted.
Methods: The protein expression of AURKB was determined using immunohistochemistry in human RB patient specimens and immunoblotting in cell lines. Pharmacological inhibition and shRNA-mediated knockdown were used to understand the role of AURKB in cell viability, apoptosis, and cell cycle distribution. Cell viability in response to AURKB inhibition was also assessed in enucleated RB specimens. Immunoblotting was employed to determine the protein levels of phospho-histone H3, p53, p21, and MYCN. Chromatin immunoprecipitation-qPCR was performed to verify the binding of MYCN on the promoter region of AURKB.
Results: The expression of AURKB was found to be markedly elevated in human RB tissues, and the overexpression significantly correlated with optic nerve and anterior chamber invasion. Targeting AURKB with small-molecule inhibitors and shRNAs resulted in reduced cell survival and increased apoptosis and cell cycle arrest at the G2/M phase. More importantly, primary RB specimens showed decreased cell viability in response to pharmacological AURKB inhibition. Additional studies have demonstrated that the MYCN oncogene regulates the expression of AURKB in RB.
Conclusions: AURKB is overexpressed in RB, and targeting it could serve as a novel therapeutic strategy to restrict tumor cell growth.