Endocrinol Metab.  2015 Dec;30(4):593-603. 10.3803/EnM.2015.30.4.593.

Selective Mitochondrial Uptake of MKT-077 Can Suppress Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma Cell Survival In Vitro and In Vivo

  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, USA. jipark@mcw.edu


Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) is a neuroendocrine tumor mainly caused by mutations in the rearranged during transfection (RET) proto-oncogene. Not all patients with progressive MTC respond to current therapy inhibiting RET, demanding additional therapeutic strategies. We recently demonstrated that disrupting mitochondrial metabolism using a mitochondria-targeted agent or by depleting a mitochondrial chaperone effectively suppressed human MTC cells in culture and in mouse xenografts by inducing apoptosis and RET downregulation. These observations led us to hypothesize that mitochondria are potential therapeutic targets for MTC. This study further tests this hypothesis using1-ethyl-2-[[3-ethyl-5-(3-methylbenzothiazolin-2-yliden)]-4-oxothiazolidin-2-ylidenemethyl] pyridinium chloride (MKT-077), a water-soluble rhodocyanine dye analogue, which can selectively accumulate in mitochondria.
The effects of MKT-077 on cell proliferation, survival, expression of RET and tumor protein 53 (TP53), and mitochondrial activity were determined in the human MTC lines in culture and in mouse xenografts.
MKT-077 induced cell cycle arrest in TT and MZ-CRC-1. Intriguingly, MKT-077 also induced RET downregulation and strong cell death responses in TT cells, but not in MZ-CRC-1 cells. This discrepancy was mainly due to the difference between the capacities of these cell lines to retain MKT-077 in mitochondria. The cytotoxicity of MKT-077 in TT cells was mainly attributed to oxidative stress while being independent of TP53. MKT-077 also effectively suppressed tumor growth of TT xenografts.
MKT-077 can suppress cell survival of certain MTC subtypes by accumulating in mitochondria and interfering with mitochondrial activity although it can also suppress cell proliferation via other mechanisms. These results consistently support the hypothesis that mitochondrial targeting has therapeutic potential for MTC.


Medullary thyroid carcinoma; Mitochondria; MKT 077
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