Non-thermal plasma induces a stress response in mesothelioma cells resulting in increased endocytosis, lysosome biogenesis and autophagy

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Non-thermal plasma (NTP) is a potential new therapeutic modality for cancer. However, its mechanism of action remains unclear. Herein, we studied the effect of NTP on mesothelioma cells and fibroblasts to understand its anti-proliferative efficacy. Interestingly, NTP demonstrated greater selective anti-proliferative activity against mesothelioma cells relative to fibroblasts than cisplatin, which is used for mesothelioma treatment. The anti-proliferative effect of NTP was enhanced by pre-incubation with the cellular iron donor, ferric ammonium citrate (FAC), and inhibited by iron chelation using desferrioxamine (DFO). Three oxidative stress probes (CM-H2DCFDA, MitoSOX and C11-BODIPY) demonstrated reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation by NTP, which was inhibited by DFO. Moreover, NTP decreased transferrin receptor-1 and increased ferritin-H and -L chain expression that was correlated with decreased iron-regulatory protein expression and RNA-binding activity. This regulation was potentially due to increased intracellular iron in lysosomes, which was demonstrated via the Fe(II)-selective probe, HMRhoNox-M, and was consistent with autophagic-induction. Immunofluorescence using LysoTracker and Pepstatin A probes demonstrated increased cellular lysosome content, which was confirmed by elevated LAMP1 expression. The enhanced lysosomal biogenesis after NTP could be due to the observed increase in fluid-phase endocytosis and early endosome formation. These results suggest NTP acts as a stressor, which results in increased endocytosis, lysosome content and autophagy. In fact, NTP rapidly increased autophagosome formation, as judged by increased LC3B-II expression, which co-localized with LAMP1, indicating autophagolysosome formation. Autophagic-induction by NTP was confirmed using electron microscopy. In summary, NTP acts as a cellular stressor to rapidly induce fluid-phase endocytosis, lysosome biogenesis and autophagy.

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