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FOXM1 modulates 5-fluorouracil sensitivity in cholangiocarcinoma through thymidylate synthase (TYMS): implications of FOXM1–TYMS axis uncoupling in 5-FU resistance

  • Intuyod, Kitti1, 2, 2
  • Saavedra-García, Paula1
  • Zona, Stefania1
  • Lai, Chun-Fui1
  • Jiramongkol, Yannasittha1
  • Vaeteewoottacharn, Kulthida2, 2
  • Pairojkul, Chawalit2, 2
  • Yao, Shang1
  • Yong, Jay-Sze1
  • Trakansuebkul, Sasanan1
  • Waraasawapati, Sakda2, 2
  • Luvira, Vor2, 3
  • Wongkham, Sopit2, 2
  • Pinlaor, Somchai2, 3
  • Lam, Eric W.-F.1
  • 1 Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital Campus, London, W12 0NN, UK , London (United Kingdom)
  • 2 Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, 40002, Thailand , Khon Kaen (Thailand)
  • 3 Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand , Khon Kaen (Thailand)
Published Article
Cell Death and Disease
Springer Nature
Publication Date
Dec 11, 2018
DOI: 10.1038/s41419-018-1235-0
Springer Nature


Fluorouracil (5-FU) is the first-line chemotherapeutic drug for cholangiocarcinoma (CCA), but its efficacy has been compromised by the development of resistance. Development of 5-FU resistance is associated with elevated expression of its cellular target, thymidylate synthase (TYMS). E2F1 transcription factor has previously been shown to modulate the expression of FOXM1 and TYMS. Immunohistochemical (IHC) analysis revealed a strong correlated upregulation of FOXM1 (78%) and TYMS (48%) expression at the protein levels in CCA tissues. In agreement, RT-qPCR and western blot analyses of four human CCA cell lines at the baseline level and in response to high doses of 5-FU revealed good correlations between FOXM1 and TYMS expression in the CCA cell lines tested, except for the highly 5-FU-resistant HuCCA cells. Consistently, siRNA-mediated knockdown of FOXM1 reduced the clonogenicity and TYMS expression in the relatively sensitive KKU-D131 but not in the highly resistant HuCCA cells. Interestingly, silencing of TYMS sensitized both KKU-D131 and HuCCA to 5-FU treatment, suggesting that resistance to very high levels of 5-FU is due to the inability of the genotoxic sensor FOXM1 to modulate TYMS expression. Consistently, ChIP analysis revealed that FOXM1 binds efficiently to the TYMS promoter and modulates TYMS expression at the promoter level upon 5-FU treatment in KKU-D131 but not in HuCCA cells. In addition, E2F1 expression did not correlate with either FOXM1 or TYMS expression and E2F1 depletion has no effects on the clonogenicity and TYMS expression in the CCA cells. In conclusion, our data show that FOXM1 regulates TYMS expression to modulate 5-FU resistance in CCA and that severe 5-FU resistance can be caused by the uncoupling of the regulation of TYMS by FOXM1. Our findings suggest that the FOXM1–TYMS axis can be a novel diagnostic, predictive and prognostic marker as well as a therapeutic target for CCA.

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