Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have been likened to asbestos in terms of morphology and toxicity. CNT exposure can lead to pulmonary fibrosis and promotion of tumorigenesis. However, the mechanisms underlying CNT-induced carcinogenesis are not well defined. Mesothelin (MSLN) is over-expressed in many human tumors, including mesotheliomas and pancreatic and ovarian carcinomas. In this study, the role of MSLN in the carcinogenic transformation of human bronchial epithelial cells chronically exposed to single-walled CNT (BSW) was investigated. MSLN overexpression was found in human lung tumors, lung cancer cell lines, and BSW cells. The functional role of MSLN in the BSW cells was then investigated using stably-transfected MSLN knockdown (BSW shMSLN) cells. MSLN knockdown resulted in significantly decreased invasion, migration, colonies on soft agar, and tumor sphere formation. In vivo, BSW shMSLN cells formed smaller primary tumors and less metastases. The mechanism by which MSLN contributes to these more aggressive behaviors was investigated using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis, which predicted that increased MSLN could induce cyclin E expression. We found that BSW shMSLN cells had decreased cyclin E, and their proliferation rate was reverted to nearly that of untransformed cells. Cell cycle analysis showed that the BSW shMSLN cells had an increased G2 population and a decreased S phase population, which is consistent with the decreased rate of proliferation. Together, our results indicate a novel role of MSLN in the malignant transformation of bronchial epithelial cells following CNT exposure, suggesting its utility as a potential biomarker and drug target for CNT-induced carcinogenesis.
- cell invasion
- tumor formation
- Copyright © 2016, American Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology