Relevance of iNOS expression in tumor growth and maintenance of cancer stem cells in a bladder cancer model

Bladder Cancer

J Mol Med (Berl). 2020 Sep 16. doi: 10.1007/s00109-020-01973-0. Online ahead of print.


The expression of inducible nitric oxide (NO) synthase (iNOS) in human bladder cancer (BC) is a poor prognostic factor associated with invasion and tumor recurrence. Here, we evaluated the relevance of iNOS expression in BC progression and in cancer stem cell (CSC) maintenance in a murine BC model. Also, iNOS expression and CSC markers were analyzed in human BC samples. iNOS inhibitors (L-NAME or 1400W) or shRNA were used on murine BC model with different iNOS expressions and invasiveness

grades: MB49 (iNOS+, non-muscle invasive (NMI)) and MB49-I (iNOS++, muscle invasive (MI)), in order to analyzed cell proliferation, tumor growth, angiogenesis, number of CSC, and pluripotential marker expression. iNOS, SOX2, Oct4, and Nanog expressions were also analyzed in human BC samples by qPCR and immunohistochemistry. iNOS inhibtion reduced parameters associated with tumor progression and reduced the number of CSC, wich resulted higher in MB49-I than in MB49, in concordance with the higher expression of SOX2, Oct4, and Nanog. The expression of SOX2 was notoriously diminished, when iNOS was inhibited only in the MI cell line. Similar results were observed in human samples, where MI tumors expressed higher levels of iNOS and pluripotential genes, in comparison to NMI tumors with a positive correlation between those and iNOS, suggesting that iNOS expression is associated with CSC. iNOS plays an important role in BC progression and CSC maintenance. Its inhibition could be a potential therapeutic target to eradicate CSC, responsible for tumor recurrences. KEY MESSAGES: • iNOS expression is involved in bladder tumor development, growth, and angiogenesis. • iNOS expression is involved in bladder cancer stem cell generation and maintenance, playing an important role regulating their self-renewal capacity, especially in muscle invasive murine bladder cancer cells. • iNOS expression is higher in human muscle invasive tumors, in association with a high expression of pluripotential genes, especially of SOX2.