BACKGROUND - A critical therapeutic challenge in epithelial ovarian carcinoma is the development of chemoresistance among tumor cells following exposure to first line chemotherapeutics. The molecular and genetic changes that drive the development of chemoresistance are unknown, and this lack of mechanistic insight is a major obstacle in preventing and predicting the occurrence of refractory disease. We have recently shown that Regulators of G-protein Signaling (RGS) proteins negatively regulate signaling by lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), a growth factor elevated in malignant ascites fluid that triggers oncogenic growth and survival signaling in ovarian cancer cells. The goal of this study was to determine the role of RGS protein expression in ovarian cancer chemoresistance.
RESULTS - In this study, we find that RGS2, RGS5, RGS10 and RGS17 transcripts are expressed at significantly lower levels in cells resistant to chemotherapy compared with parental, chemo-sensitive cells in gene expression datasets of multiple models of chemoresistance. Further, exposure of SKOV-3 cells to cytotoxic chemotherapy causes acute, persistent downregulation of RGS10 and RGS17 transcript expression. Direct inhibition of RGS10 or RGS17 expression using siRNA knock-down significantly reduces chemotherapy-induced cell toxicity. The effects of cisplatin, vincristine, and docetaxel are inhibited following RGS10 and RGS17 knock-down in cell viability assays and phosphatidyl serine externalization assays in SKOV-3 cells and MDR-HeyA8 cells. We further show that AKT activation is higher following RGS10 knock-down and RGS 10 and RGS17 overexpression blocked LPA mediated activation of AKT, suggesting that RGS proteins may blunt AKT survival pathways.
CONCLUSIONS - Taken together, our data suggest that chemotherapy exposure triggers loss of RGS10 and RGS17 expression in ovarian cancer cells, and that loss of expression contributes to the development of chemoresistance, possibly through amplification of endogenous AKT signals. Our results establish RGS10 and RGS17 as novel regulators of cell survival and chemoresistance in ovarian cancer cells and suggest that their reduced expression may be diagnostic of chemoresistance.