Intrinsic mitochondrial membrane potential and associated tumor phenotype are independent of MUC1 over-expression

Michele A. Houston, Leonard H. Augenlicht, Barbara G. Heerdt

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8 Scopus citations


We have established previously that minor subpopulations of cells with stable differences in their intrinsic mitochondrial membrane potential (Δψm) exist within populations of mammary and colonic carcinoma cells and that these differences in Δψm are linked to tumorigenic phenotypes consistent with increased probability of participating in tumor progression. However, the mechanism(s) involved in generating and maintaining stable differences in intrinsic Δψm and how they are linked to phenotype are unclear. Because the mucin 1 (MUC1) oncoprotein is over-expressed in many cancers, with the cytoplasmic C-terminal fragment (MUC1 C-ter) and its integration into the outer mitochondrial membrane linked to tumorigenic phenotypes similar to those of cells with elevated intrinsic Δψm, we investigated whether endogenous differences in MUC1 levels were linked to stable differences in intrinsic Δψm and/or to the tumor phenotypes associated with the intrinsic Δψm. We report that levels of MUC1 are significantly higher in subpopulations of cells with elevated intrinsic Δψm derived from both mammary and colonic carcinoma cell lines. However, using siRNA we found that down-regulation of MUC1 failed to significantly affect either the intrinsic Δψm or the tumor phenotypes associated with increased intrinsic Δψm. Moreover, whereas pharmacologically mediated disruption of the Δψm was accompanied by attenuation of tumor phenotype, it had no impact on MUC1 levels. Therefore, while MUC1 over-expression is associated with subpopulations of cells with elevated intrinsic Δψm, it is not directly linked to the generation or maintenance of stable alterations in intrinsic Δψm, or to intrinsic Δψm associated tumor phenotypes. Since the Δψm is the focus of chemotherapeutic strategies, these data have important clinical implications in regard to effectively targeting those cells within a tumor cell population that exhibit stable elevations in intrinsic Δψm and are most likely to contribute to tumor progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere25207
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 23 2011


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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