Paclitaxel-based chemotherapy is a treatment option for advanced esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). However, the development of chemoresistance leads to treatment failure, and the underlying mechanism remains elusive. We investigated the mechanisms of nanoparticle albumin-bound paclitaxel (nab-PTX) resistance by establishing three nab-PTX resistant ESCC cell lines. Proteomics analysis revealed higher oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) in resistant cell line DR150 than in its parental cell line KYSE150, which is likely caused by stabilized anti-apoptotic protein MCL1. Additionally, we discovered the elevated activity of protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A), the phosphatase that dephosphorylates and stabilizes MCL1, in nab-PTX resistant cell lines. Pharmacological inhibition of PP2A with small molecule compound LB-100 decreased MCL1 protein level, caused more apoptosis in nab-PTX resistant ESCC cell lines than in the parental cells in vitro, and significantly inhibited the tumor growth of nab-PTX resistant xenografts in vivo. Moreover, LB-100 pretreatment partially restored nab-PTX sensitivity in the resistant cell lines and synergistically inhibited the tumor growth of nab-PTX resistant xenografts with nab-PTX. In summary, our study identifies a novel mechanism whereby elevated PP2A activity stabilizes MCL1 protein, increases OXPHOS, and confers nab-PTX resistance, suggesting that targeting PP2A is a potential strategy for reversing nab-PTX resistance in patients with advanced ESCC.
Keywords: LB-100; MCL1; PP2A; chemoresistance; esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC); nab-PTX.