Osteosarcoma is the most frequently diagnosed primary malignant bone sarcoma in children and adolescents. Recent studies have shown that cancer stem cells (CSCs), a cluster of tumor cells with the ability to self-renew, play an essential role in tumor recurrence and metastasis. Thus, it is necessary to develop therapeutic strategies specifically targeting CSCs. Metformin, the first-line drug for type 2 diabetes, exhibits antineoplastic activities in various kinds of tumors. New evidence has suggested that metformin may target CSCs and prevent their recurrence. However, the underlying specific mechanisms remain unclear. In this study, we found that metformin significantly suppressed the self-renewal ability of osteosarcoma stem cells (OSCs) and induced G0/G1 phase arrest by blocking the activity of cyclin-dependent kinases. Furthermore, metformin induced apoptosis through a mitochondria-dependent pathway, leading to the collapse of the mitochondrial transmembrane potential and the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Importantly, metformin acted directly on the mitochondria, which resulted in decreased ATP synthesis. This change allowed access to the downstream AMPK kinase, and the activation of AMPK led to the reversal of the mTOR pathway, triggering autophagy. Particularly, metformin-mediated autophagy disturbed the homeostasis of stemness and pluripotency in the OSCs. Additionally, our mouse xenograft model confirmed the potential therapeutic use of metformin in targeting OSCs. In conclusion, our findings suggest that metformin suppresses the self-renewal ability and tumorigenicity of OSCs via ROS-mediated apoptosis and autophagy.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Cell Biology