Lysosomal mitochondrial interaction promotes tumor growth in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Jun 26:2023.06.25.546311. doi: 10.1101/2023.06.25.546311.


Tumor growth and proliferation are regulated by numerous mechanisms. Communication between intracellular organelles has recently been shown to regulate cellular proliferation and fitness. The way lysosomes and mitochondria communicate with each other (lysosomal/mitochondrial interaction) is emerging as a major determinant of tumor proliferation and growth. About 30% of squamous carcinomas (including squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, SCCHN) overexpress TMEM16A, a calcium-activated chloride channel, which promotes cellular growth and negatively correlates with patient survival. TMEM16A has recently been shown to drive lysosomal biogenesis, but its impact on mitochondrial function is unclear. Here, we show that (1) patients with high TMEM16A SCCHN display increased mitochondrial content specifically complex I; (2) In vitro and in vivo models uniquely depend on mitochondrial complex I activity for growth and survival; (3) β-catenin/NRF2 signaling is a critical linchpin that drives mitochondrial biogenesis, and (4) mitochondrial complex I and lysosomal function are codependent for proliferation. Taken together, our data demonstrate that LMI drives tumor proliferation and facilitates a functional interaction between lysosomes and mitochondria. Therefore, inhibition of LMI may serve as a therapeutic strategy for patients with SCCHN.

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  • Preprint