Metabolic Reprograming Via Silencing of Mitochondrial VDAC1 Expression Encourages Differentiation of Cancer Cells

Tasleem Arif, Zohar Amsalem, Varda Shoshan-Barmatz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The mitochondrial gatekeeper voltage-dependent anion channel 1 (VDAC1) controls metabolic and energy cross-talk between mitochondria and the rest of the cell and is involved in mitochondria-mediated apoptosis. Here, we compared the effects of downregulated VDAC1 expression in the U-87MG glioblastoma, MDA-MB-231 triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), and A549 lung cancer cell lines, using small interfering RNA (siRNA) specific to human VDAC1 (si-hVDAC1). The cells were subjected to si-hVDAC1 (50 nM) treatment for 5–20 days. Although VDAC1 silencing occurred within a day, the cells underwent reprograming with respect to rewiring metabolism, elimination of cancer stem cells (CSCs), and alteration of transcription factor (TF) expression and proteins associated with differentiation, with maximal changes being observed after 3 weeks of silencing VDAC1 expression. The differentiation into fewer tumorigenic cells may be associated with the elimination of CSCs. These alterations are interconnected, as protein up- or downregulation occurred simultaneously, starting 15–20 days after VDAC1 levels were first decreased. Moreover, the VDAC1 depletion-mediated effects on a network of key regulators of cell metabolism, CSCs, TFs, and other factors leading to differentiation are coordinated and are common to the glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and lung and breast cancer cell lines, despite differing in origin and carried mutations. Thus, our study showed that VDAC1 depletion triggers reprograming of malignant cancer cells into terminally differentiated cells and that this may be a promising therapeutic approach for various cancers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-37
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Therapy - Nucleic Acids
StatePublished - 6 Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • VDAC1
  • cancer
  • cell differentiation
  • metabolism
  • mitochondria
  • siRNA


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