Targeting mitochondria by anthelmintic drug atovaquone sensitizes renal cell carcinoma to chemotherapy and immunotherapy

Targeting mitochondria respiration is an effective therapeutic strategy in renal cell carcinoma (RCC). Atovaquone is a FDA-approved antibiotic but is also known as a mitochondrial inhibitor. We found that atovaquone inhibited proliferation and induced apoptosis of RCC cells. Mechanistically, atovaquone inhibits mitochondrial respiration in a concentration-dependent and time-dependent manner, via targeting mitochondrial respiratory complex III. Although increased glycolysis was observed in atovaquone-treated cells, atovaquone decreased ATP levels. As a consequence of mitochondrial respiration inhibition, reactive oxygen species levels were increased by atovaquone. The complete rescue of atovaquone's effects by an antioxidant suggests the important role of oxidative stress in the action of atovaquone in RCC. Importantly, atovaquone enhanced the in vitro and in vivo efficacy of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and interferon-α (IFN-α). Our preclinical findings suggest that atovaquone is a useful addition for RCC treatment. Our work also further demonstrates that RCC is more dependent on mitochondrial respiration than glycolysis.

Journal of biochemical and molecular toxicology. 2018 Jul 13 [Epub ahead of print]

Dehong Chen, Xiaosong Sun, Xuejun Zhang, Jun Cao

Department of Urology, Xiangyang Central Hospital, Hospital Affiliated to Hubei University of Arts and Science, Xiangyang, 441021, People's Republic of China.