Kwak D, Hammarström LGJ, Haraldsson M, Ernfors P
Neurooncol Adv 3 (1) vdab152 [2021-10-15; online 2021-10-15]
Increased membrane trafficking is observed in numerous cancer types, including glioblastoma. Targeting the oncogenic driven acquired alterations in membrane trafficking by synthetic cationic amphiphilic small molecules has recently been shown to induce death of glioblastoma cells, although the molecular targets are unknown. The mechanism of action of the cationic amphiphilic drug Vacquinol-1 (Vacq1)-induced cytotoxicity was investigated using cell biology, biochemistry, functional experiments, chemical biology, unbiased antibody-based post-translation modification profiling, and mass spectrometry-based chemical proteomic analysis on patient-derived glioblastoma cells. Vacq1 induced two types of abnormal endolysosomal vesicles, enlarged vacuoles and acidic vesicle organelles (AVOs). Mechanistically, enlarged vacuoles were formed by the impairment of lysosome reformation through the direct interaction and inhibition of calmodulin (CaM) by Vacq1, while AVO formation was induced by Vacq1 accumulation and acidification in the endosomal compartments through its activation of the v-ATPase. As a consequence of v-ATPase activation, cellular ATP consumption markedly increased, causing cellular energy shortage and cytotoxicity. This effect of Vacq1 was exacerbated by its inhibitory effects on calmodulin, causing lysosomal depletion and a failure of acidic vesicle organelle clearance. Our study identifies the targets of Vacq1 and the mechanisms underlying its selective cytotoxicity in glioblastoma cells. The dual function of Vacq1 sets in motion a glioblastoma-specific vicious cycle of ATP consumption resulting in cellular energy crisis and cell death.