SOD2 to SOD1 switch in breast cancer

Luena Papa, Mary Hahn, Ellen L. Marsh, Bradley S. Evans, Doris Germain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Cancer cells are characterized by elevated levels of reactive oxygen species, which are produced mainly by the mitochondria. The dismutase SOD2 localizes in the matrix and is a major antioxidant. The activity of SOD2 is regulated by the deacetylase SIRT3. Recent studies indicated that SIRT3 is decreased in 87% of breast cancers, implying that the activity of SOD2 is compromised. The resulting elevation in reactive oxygen species was shown to be essential for the metabolic reprograming toward glycolysis. Here, we show that SOD2 itself is down-regulated in breast cancer cell lines. Further, activation of oncogenes, such as Ras, promotes the rapid down-regulation of SOD2. Because in the absence of SOD2, superoxide levels are elevated in the matrix, we reasoned that mechanisms must exist to retain low levels of superoxide in other cellular compartments especially in the intermembrane space of the mitochondrial to avoid irreversible damage. The dismutase SOD1 also acts as an antioxidant, but it localizes to the cytoplasm and the intermembrane space of the mitochondria. We report here that loss of SOD2 correlates with the overexpression of SOD1. Further, we show that mitochondrial SOD1 is the main dismutase activity in breast cancer cells but not in non-transformed cells. In addition, we show that the SOD1 inhibitor LCS-1 leads to a drastic fragmentation and swelling of the matrix, suggesting that in the absence of SOD2, SOD1 is required to maintain the integrity of the organelle. We propose that by analogy to the cadherin switch during epithelial-mesenchymal transition, cancer cells also undergo a SOD switch during transformation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5412-5416
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - 28 Feb 2014


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