Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive breast cancer subtype. Radiotherapy is an effective option for the treatment of TNBC; however, acquired radioresistance is a major challenge to the modality. In this study, we show that the integrated stress response (ISR) is the most activated signaling pathway in radioresistant TNBC cells. The constitutive phosphorylation of eIF2α in radioresistant TNBC cells promotes the activation of ATF4 and elicits the transcription of genes implicated in glutathione biosynthesis, including GCLC, SLC7A11, and CTH, which increases the intracellular level of reduced glutathione (GSH) and the scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS) after irradiation (IR), leading to a radioresistant phenotype. The cascade is significantly up-regulated in human TNBC tissues and is associated with unfavorable survival in patients. Dephosphorylation of eIF2α increases IR-induced ROS accumulation in radioresistant TNBC cells by disrupting ATF4-mediated GSH biosynthesis and sensitizes them to IR in vitro and in vivo. These findings reveal ISR as a vital mechanism underlying TNBC radioresistance and propose the eIF2α/ATF4 axis as a novel therapeutic target for TNBC treatment.
Keywords: ATF4; GSH; Integrated stress response; Radioresistance; TNBC; eIF2α.
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