Rewiring tumor cells to undergo drug-induced apoptosis is a promising way to overcome chemoresistance. Therefore, identifying causative factors for chemoresistance is of high importance. Unbiased global proteome profiling of sensitive, early, and late cisplatin-resistant oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) lines identified CMTM6 as a top-ranked upregulated protein. Analyses of OSCC patient tumor samples demonstrated significantly higher CMTM6 expression in chemotherapy (CT) nonresponders as compared with CT responders. In addition, a significant association between higher CMTM6 expression and poorer relapse-free survival in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, and lung squamous cell carcinoma was observed from Kaplan-Meier plot analysis. Stable knockdown (KD) of CMTM6 restored cisplatin-mediated cell death in chemoresistant OSCC lines. Upon CMTM6 overexpression in CMTM6-KD lines, the cisplatin-resistant phenotype was rescued. The patient-derived cell xenograft model of chemoresistant OSCC displaying CMTM6 depletion restored the cisplatin-induced cell death and tumor burden substantially. The transcriptome analysis of CMTM6-KD and control chemoresistant cells depicted enrichment of the Wnt signaling pathway. We demonstrated that CMTM6 interaction with membrane-bound Enolase-1 stabilized its expression, leading to activation of Wnt signaling mediated by AKT–glycogen synthase kinase-3β. CMTM6 has been identified as a stabilizer of programmed cell death ligand 1. Therefore, as CMTM6 facilitates tumor cells for immune evasion and mediates cisplatin resistance, it could be a promising therapeutic target for treating therapy-resistant OSCC.
Pallavi Mohapatra, Omprakash Shriwas, Sibasish Mohanty, Arup Ghosh, Shuchi Smita, Sandeep Rai Kaushik, Rakesh Arya, Rachna Rath, Saroj Kumar Das Majumdar, Dillip Kumar Muduly, Sunil K. Raghav, Ranjan K. Nanda, Rupesh Dash