Background: The development of lethal cancer metastasis depends on the dynamic interactions between cancer cells and the tumor microenvironment, both of which are embedded in the extracellular matrix (ECM). The acquisition of resistance to detachment-induced apoptosis, also known as anoikis, is a critical step in the metastatic cascade. Thus, a more in-depth and systematic analysis is needed to identify the key drivers of anoikis resistance.
Methods: Genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9 knockout screen was used to identify critical drivers of anoikis resistance using SKOV3 cell line and found protein-L-isoaspartate (D-aspartate) O-methyltransferase (PCMT1) as a candidate. Quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) and immune-histochemistry (IHC) were used to measure differentially expressed PCMT1 in primary tissues and metastatic cancer tissues. PCMT1 knockdown/knockout and overexpression were performed to investigate the functional role of PCMT1 in vitro and in vivo. The expression and regulation of PCMT1 and integrin-FAK-Src pathway were evaluated using immunoprecipitation followed by mass spectrometry (IP-MS), western blot analysis and live cell imaging.
Results: We found that PCMT1 enhanced cell migration, adhesion, and spheroid formation in vitro. Interestingly, PCMT1 was released from ovarian cancer cells, and interacted with the ECM protein LAMB3, which binds to integrin and activates FAK-Src signaling to promote cancer progression. Strikingly, treatment with an antibody against extracellular PCMT1 effectively reduced ovarian cancer cell invasion and adhesion. Our in vivo results indicated that overexpression of PCMT1 led to increased ascites formation and distant metastasis, whereas knockout of PCMT1 had the opposite effect. Importantly, PCMT1 was highly expressed in late-stage metastatic tumors compared to early-stage primary tumors.
Conclusions: Through systematically identifying the drivers of anoikis resistance, we uncovered the contribution of PCMT1 to focal adhesion (FA) dynamics as well as cancer metastasis. Our study suggested that PCMT1 has the potential to be a therapeutic target in metastatic ovarian cancer.
Keywords: Anoikis; CRISPR/Cas9; Extracellular matrix; Integrin-FAK-Src; Metastasis; PCMT1.
© 2022. The Author(s).