MUC1-C is a target of salinomycin in inducing ferroptosis of cancer stem cells

Tatsuaki Daimon, Atrayee Bhattacharya, Keyi Wang, Naoki Haratake, Ayako Nakashoji, Hiroki Ozawa, Yoshihiro Morimoto, Nami Yamashita, Takeo Kosaka, Mototsugu Oya, Donald W. Kufe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The oncogenic MUC1-C transmembrane protein is a critical effector of the cancer stem cell (CSC) state. Addiction to MUC1-C for self-renewal in the progression of human cancers has emphasized the need for development of anti-MUC1-C agents. However, there are presently no approved small molecules for targeting MUC1-C-dependent CSCs. In screening for small molecules, we identified salinomycin (SAL), an inducer of ferroptosis, as a potent inhibitor of MUC1-C signaling. We demonstrate that SAL suppresses MUC1-C expression by disrupting a NF-κB/MUC1-C auto-inductive circuit that is necessary for ferroptosis resistance. Our results show that SAL-induced MUC1-C suppression downregulates a MUC1-C→MYC pathway that activates genes encoding (i) glutathione-disulfide reductase (GSR), and (ii) the LDL receptor related protein 8 (LRP8), which inhibit ferroptosis by generating GSH and regulating selenium levels, respectively. GSR and LRP8 contribute to the function of glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4), an essential negative regulator of ferroptotic cell death. We demonstrate that targeting MUC1-C genetically or with the GO-203 peptide inhibitor suppresses GPX4 expression and GPX activity in association with the induction of ferroptosis. Studies of CSCs enriched by serial passage as tumorspheres further demonstrate that the effects of SAL are mediated by downregulation of MUC1-C and thereby overcoming resistance to ferroptosis. As confirmation of these results, rescue of MUC1-C downregulation with the MUC1-C cytoplasmic domain (i) reversed the suppression of GSR, LRP8 and GPX4 expression, and (ii) attenuated the induction of ferroptosis. These findings identify SAL as a unique small molecule inhibitor of MUC1-C signaling and demonstrate that MUC1-C is an important effector of resistance to ferroptosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
JournalCell Death Discovery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Dec

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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