MEX3A Mediates p53 Degradation to Suppress Ferroptosis and Facilitate Ovarian Cancer Tumorigenesis

Cheng Kai Wang, Tzu Jou Chen, Grace Y.T. Tan, Fang Pei Chang, Samyuktha Sridharan, Chen Hsin Albert Yu, Yen Hou Chang, Yi Jen Chen, Li Tzu Cheng, Wendy W. Hwang-Verslues

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Epithelial ovarian cancer is a highly heterogeneous and malignant female cancer with an overall low survival rate. Mutations in p53 are prevalent in the major ovarian cancer histotype, high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma (HGSOC), while p53 mutations are much less frequent in other ovarian cancer subtypes, particularly in ovarian clear cell carcinoma (OCCC). Advanced stage OCCC with wild-type (WT) p53 has a worse prognosis and increased drug resistance, metastasis, and recurrence than HGSOC. The mechanisms responsible for driving the aggressiveness of WT p53-expressing ovarian cancer remain poorly understood. Here, we found that upregulation of MEX3A, a dual-function protein containing a RING finger domain and an RNA-binding domain, was critical for tumorigenesis in WT p53-expressing ovarian cancer. MEX3A overexpression enhanced the growth and clonogenicity of OCCC cell lines. In contrast, depletion of MEX3A in OCCC cells, as well as ovarian teratocarcinoma cells, reduced cell survival and proliferative ability. MEX3A depletion also inhibited tumor growth and prolonged survival in orthotopic xenograft models. MEX3A depletion did not alter p53 mRNA level but did increase p53 protein stability. MEX3A-mediated p53 protein degradation was crucial to suppress ferroptosis and enhance tumorigenesis. Consistently, p53 knockdown reversed the effects of MEX3A depletion. Together, our observations identified MEX3A as an important oncogenic factor promoting tumorigenesis in ovarian cancer cells expressing WT p53. SIGNIFICANCE: Degradation of p53 mediated by MEX3A drives ovarian cancer growth by circumventing p53 tumor suppressive functions, suggesting targeting MEX3A as a potential strategy for treating of ovarian cancer expressing WT p53.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-263
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 18 Jan 2023


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