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Vogelsang, Tilman L. R.; Kast, Verena; Bagnjuk, Konstantin; Eubler, Katja; Jeevanandan, Sree Priyanka; Schmoeckel, Elisa; Trebo, Anna; Topalov, Nicole Elisabeth; Mahner, Sven; Mayr, Doris; Mayerhofer, Artur; Jeschke, Udo; Vattai, Aurelia (2023): RIPK1 and RIPK3 are positive prognosticators for cervical cancer patients and C2 ceramide can inhibit tumor cell proliferation in vitro. Frontiers in Oncology, 13. ISSN 2234-943X

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Introduction: The enzymes Receptor-interacting serine/threonine-protein kinase 1 (RIPK1) und 3 (RIPK3) as well as the protein Mixed lineage kinase domain like pseudokinase (pMLKL) play a role in the signaling cascade of necroptosis. This is a form of programmed cell death which is caspase-independent. High-risk human papilloma virus infection can inhibit necroptosis. Thereby, a persistent infection and consequently the development of cervical cancer can be triggered. Aim of this study was the analysis of the expression of RIPK1, RIPK3 and pMLKL in cervical cancer tissue and the evaluation of its prognostic value on overall survival, progression-free survival and additional clinical parameters.

Methods: The expression of RIPK1, RIPK3, and pMLKL in cervical cancer tissue microarrays of n = 250 patients was analyzed immunohistochemically. Further, the effect of C2 ceramide on several cervical cancer cell lines (CaSki, HeLa, SiHa) was examined. C2 ceramide is a biologically active short-chain ceramide that induces necroptosis in human luteal granulosa cells.

Results: Significantly longer overall survival and progression-free survival rates could be detected in cervical cancer patients expressing nuclear RIPK1 or RIPK3 alone or simultaneously (RIPK1 and RIPK3). Cell viability and proliferation was reduced through C2 ceramide stimulation of cervical cancer cells. Simultaneous stimulation of C2 ceramide and the pan-caspase inhibitor Z-VAD-fmk, or the RIPK1-inhibitor necrostatin-1, partly reversed the negative effect of C2 ceramide on cell viability. This observation could imply that caspase-dependent and -independent forms of cell death, including necroptosis, can occur. AnnexinV-FITC apoptosis staining induced a significant increase in apoptotic cells in CaSki and SiHa cells. The stimulation of CaSki cells with C2 ceramide led to a significant percentual increase in necrotic/intermediate (dying) cells after stimulation with C2 ceramide. In addition, after stimulation with C2 ceramide, CaSki and HeLa cells live cell imaging showed morphological changes which are common for necroptosis.

Discussion: In conclusion, RIPK1 and RIPK3 are independent positive predictors for overall survival and progression-free survival in cervical cancer patients. C2 ceramide can reduce cell viability and proliferation in cervical cancer cells by inducing most likely both apoptosis and necroptosis.

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