• Open Access

Critical roles of the cAMP-responsive element-binding protein-mediated pathway in disorganized epithelial phenotypes caused by mitochondrial dysfunction


To whom correspondence should be addressed.

E-mail: smotoko@pharm.showa-u.ac.jp


In most human cancers, somatic mutations have been identified in the mtDNA; however, their significance remains unclear. We recently discovered that NMuMG mouse mammary epithelial cells, when deprived of mitochondria or following inhibition of respiratory activity, undergo epithelial morphological disruption accompanied with irregular edging of E-cadherin, the appearance of actin stress fibers, and an altered gene expression profile. In this study, using the mtDNA-less pseudo ρ0 cells obtained from NMuMG mouse mammary epithelial cells, we examined the roles of two mitochondrial stress-associated transcription factors, cAMP-responsive element-binding protein (CREB) and C/EBP homologous protein-10 (CHOP), in the disorganization of epithelial phenotypes. We found that the expression of matrix metalloproteinase-13 and that of GADD45A, SNAIL and integrin α1 in the ρ0 cells were regulated by CHOP and CREB, respectively. Of note, knockdown and pharmacological inhibition of CREB ameliorated the disrupted epithelial morphology. It is interesting to note that the expression of high mobility group AT-hook 2 (HMGA2), a non-histone chromatin protein implicated in malignant neoplasms, was increased at the protein level through the CREB pathway. Here, we reveal how the activation of the CREB/HMGA2 pathway is implicated in the repression of integrin α1 expression in HepG2 human cancer cells, highlighting the importance of the CREB/HMGA2 pathway in malignant transformation associated with mitochondrial dysfunction, thereby raising the possibility that the pathway indirectly interferes with the cell–cell adhesion structure by influencing the cell–extracellular matrix adhesion status. Overall, the data suggest that mitochondrial dysfunction potentially contributes to neoplastic transformation of epithelial cells through the activation of these transcriptional pathways.