Silencing the Mitochondrial Gatekeeper VDAC1 as a Potential Treatment for Bladder Cancer

Belal Alhozeel, Swaroop Kumar Pandey, Anna Shteinfer-Kuzmine, Manikandan Santhanam, Varda Shoshan-Barmatz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The strategy for treating bladder cancer (BC) depends on whether there is muscle invasion or not, with the latter mostly treated with intravesical therapy, such as with bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG). However, BCG treatment is unsuccessful in 70% of patients, who are then subjected to radical cystectomy. Although immune-checkpoint inhibitors have been approved as a second-line therapy for a subset of BC patients, these have failed to meet primary endpoints in clinical trials. Thus, it is crucial to find a new treatment. The mitochondrial gatekeeper protein, the voltage-dependent anion channel 1 (VDAC1), mediates metabolic crosstalk between the mitochondria and cytosol and is involved in apoptosis. It is overexpressed in many cancer types, as shown here for BC, pointing to its significance in high-energy-demanding cancer cells. The BC cell lines UM-UC3 and HTB-5 express high VDAC1 levels compared to other cancer cell lines. VDAC1 silencing in these cells using siRNA that recognizes both human and mouse VDAC1 (si-m/hVDAC1-B) reduces cell viability, mitochondria membrane potential, and cellular ATP levels. Here, we used two BC mouse models: subcutaneous UM-UC3 cells and chemically induced BC using the carcinogen N-Butyl-N-(4-hydroxybutyl) nitrosamine (BBN). Subcutaneous UM-UC3-derived tumors treated with si-m/hVDAC1 showed inhibited tumor growth and reprogrammed metabolism, as reflected in the reduced expression of metabolism-related proteins, including Glut1, hexokinase, citrate synthase, complex-IV, and ATP synthase, suggesting reduced metabolic activity. Furthermore, si-m/hVDAC1-B reduced the expression levels of cancer-stem-cell-related proteins (cytokeratin-14, ALDH1a), modifying the tumor microenvironment, including decreased angiogenesis, extracellular matrix, tumor-associated macrophages, and inhibited epithelial–mesenchymal transition. The BBN-induced BC mouse model showed a clear carcinoma, with damaged bladder morphology and muscle-invasive tumors. Treatment with si-m/hVDAC1-B encapsulated in PLGA-PEI nanoparticles that were administered intravesically directly to the bladder showed a decreased tumor area and less bladder morphology destruction and muscle invasion. Overall, the obtained results point to the potential of si-m/hVDAC1-B as a possible therapeutic tool for treating bladder cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number627
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2024


  • VDAC1
  • bladder cancer
  • mitochondria
  • si-RNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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