Extracellular Hsp90 is Actively Trafficked and Internalized in Breast Cancer Cells
Despite its ubiquitous abundance, Hsp90 inhibitors have shown promise in anti-cancer clinical trials, suggesting that Hsp90 inhibitors selectively target tumor cells while exhibiting minimal effects in normal cells. Extracellular expression of heat shock protein 90 (eHsp90) by tumor cells is strongly correlated with malignancy. Development of small molecule probes that can specifically detect eHsp90 in vivo may therefore have utility in the early detection of malignancy. We synthesized a fluorescent cell impermeable Hsp90 inhibitor, HS-131, to target eHsp90 in vivo. HS-131 was characterized biochemically to ensure specificity for eHsp90, and an inactive analog was also synthesized to be used as an in vivo control.
Through confocal microscopy, eHsp90 can be visualized with cell impermeable, fluorophore-tagged Hsp90 inhibitors. High resolution confocal and real time lattice light sheet microscopy showed that probe-bound eHsp90 accumulates in punctate structures on the plasma membrane of breast tumor cells and is subsequently actively internalized. This internalization occurs in the presence and absence of inhibitors. The extent of internalization correlates with tumor cell aggressiveness, and this process can be induced in benign cells by over-expressing p110HER2, leading to malignant transformation of these cells. Internalization of eHsp90 is also increased after inhibition of Hsp70, suggesting that overcompensation of the heat shock response can also upregulate the eHsp90 trafficking mechanism. Whole body 3D cryo fluorescence imaging and histology of flank and spontaneous tumor-bearing mice strongly suggests that eHsp90 expression is a unique phenomenon in vivo.
Taken together, these results suggest that active and differential internalization of eHsp90 in aggressive cancer cells contributes to the selectivity observed upon Hsp90 inhibitor treatment and may provide a novel metastatic biomarker for solid tumors and may lead to the development of a tumor-specific drug delivery system.
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