J Cancer 2019; 10(27):6925-6932. doi:10.7150/jca.33698

Research Paper

PNCK depletion inhibits proliferation and induces apoptosis of human nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells in vitro and in vivo

Yuanji Xu1*, Jiling Wang2*, Shaoli Cai3,4, Guanghao Chen5, Nanyang Xiao3,4, Yajuan Fu3,4, Qi Chen3,4, Sufang Qiu1,6✉

1. Department of Radiation Oncology, Fujian Medical University Cancer Hospital & Fujian Cancer Hospital, Fuzhou, China.
2. Department of Medical Oncology, The First Hospital of Putian City, Putian, China.
3. Biomedical Research Center of South China, Fujian Normal University, Fuzhou, China.
4. The Key Laboratories of Innate Immune Biology of Fujian Province, Fuzhou, China.
5. Longyan People Hospital, Longyan, China.
6. Fujian Provincial Key Laboratory of Translational Cancer Medicine, Fuzhou, China.
*These authors contributed equally to this paper.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). See http://ivyspring.com/terms for full terms and conditions.
Xu Y, Wang J, Cai S, Chen G, Xiao N, Fu Y, Chen Q, Qiu S. PNCK depletion inhibits proliferation and induces apoptosis of human nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells in vitro and in vivo. J Cancer 2019; 10(27):6925-6932. doi:10.7150/jca.33698. Available from http://www.jcancer.org/v10p6925.htm

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Purpose: Recent studies indicate that pregnancy upregulated non-ubiquitous calmodulin kinase (PNCK) is significantly up-regulated in breast and renal carcinomas. However, the expression profile and its biological relevance of PNCK in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) have not been elucidated.

Methods: The expression level of PNCK was detected in specimens of NPC (n=10) and normal tissues (n=10) by real-time PCR and immunohistochemistry. Celigo Cell Counting and MTT assay were used to measure cell viability. Apoptosis was detected by flow cytometric analysis and caspases 3/7 activity assay. Real-time PCR and Western blotting were performed to evaluate the expression of PNCK. The bioluminescence imaging was used to evaluate the effects of PNCK knockdown on tumor growth using a xenograft animal model. The global gene expression profile was determined in wild type and PNCK-depleted CNE-2 cells via transcriptomics analysis. For mechanical investigation, the changes of PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling pathway were detected by Western blotting.

Results: The mRNA and protein levels of PNCK were increased in human NPC samples. In vitro experiments showed that shRNA or CRISPR-Cas9 mediated silencing of PNCK inhibited proliferation and induced apoptosis in NPC cells. In addition, in vivo assay revealed that knockdown of PNCK suppressed tumor growth. Consistently, a significant reduction of tumor bioluminescence in mice inoculated with PNCK-knockdown cells compared to that of control cells. In gene expression, the transcriptomics analysis revealed that there were 589 upregulated genes and 589 downregulated genes in PNCK-knockdown cells. Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA) identified significant changes of PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling pathway in PNCK-knockdown cells. Furthermore, western blot analysis revealed that interference with PNCK reduced the phosphorylation levels of PI3K, AKT and mTOR in CNE-2 cells.

Conclusion: This study for the first time demonstrates that knockdown of PNCK could suppress growth and induce apoptosis of NPC cells both in vitro and in vivo by regulating PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling pathway. These findings suggest that PNCK might be a novel therapeutic target for NPC treatment.

Keywords: NPC, PNCK, gene expression profiling.