Background: There is no consensus about the effective dosages of melatonin in cancer management, thus, it is imperative to fully understand the dose-dependent responsiveness of cancer cells to melatonin and the underlying mechanisms. Methods: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cells with or without melatonin treatment were used as a research platform. Gene depletion was achieved by short hairpin RNA, small interfering RNA, and CRISPR/Cas9. Molecular changes and regulations were assessed by Western blotting, quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR), immunohistochemistry, and chromatin Immunoprecipitation coupled with qPCR (ChIP-qPCR). The therapeutic efficacy of FGF19/FGFR4 inhibition in melatonin-mediated tumor growth and metastasis was evaluated in orthotopic tongue tumor mice. Results: The effect of melatonin on controlling cell motility and metastasis varies in HNSCC cells, which is dose-dependent. Mechanistically, high-dose melatonin facilitates the upregulation of FGF19 expression through activating endoplasmic stress (ER)-associated protein kinase RNA-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK)-Eukaryotic initiation factor 2 alpha (eIF2α)-activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) pathway, which in turn promotes FGFR4-Vimentin invasive signaling and attenuates the role of melatonin in repressing metastasis. Intriguingly, following long-term exposure to high-dose melatonin, epithelial HNSCC cells revert the process towards mesenchymal transition and turn more aggressive, which is enabled by FGF19/FGFR4 upregulation and alleviated by genetic depletion of the FGF19 and FGFR4 genes or the treatment of FGFR4 inhibitor H3B-6527. Conclusions: Our study gains novel mechanistic insights into melatonin-mediated modulation of FGF19/FGFR4 signaling in HNSCC, demonstrating that activating this molecular node confines the role of melatonin in suppressing metastasis and even triggers the switch of its function from anti-metastasis to metastasis promotion. The blockade of FGF19/FGFR4 signaling would have great potential in improving the efficacy of melatonin supplements in cancer treatment.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Journal||Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research|
|State||Published - Dec 2021|
- ER stress
- FGF19/FGFR4 axis
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research