Simple Summary: Colorectal cancer (CRC) belongs to the top three most common malignancies and is one of the deadliest cancers worldwide. Advancements in the understanding of CRC pathophysiology can lead to the development of novel treatments preventing cancer progression while prolonging overall survival. Numerous studies have shown a role for the biological clock in the regulation of cancer hallmarks and in CRC. However, the mechanistic link between the circadian clock and CRC progression is not fully understood. In the current study, we aimed to investigate the effects of a genetically disrupted clock on cancer properties using different CRC cell lines, with a focus on metastasis-related components. Our results demonstrate a reciprocal interplay between the circadian clock and the metastasis associated gene MACC1 (metastasis-associated in colon cancer 1), pointing to the circadian clock-regulation of CRC invasiveness. A circadian MACC1 expression, as shown by our data, may be considered to optimize MACC1-targeted CRC treatment.
Abstract: The circadian clock coordinates the timing of several cellular processes including transcription, the cell cycle, and metabolism. Disruptions in the clock machinery trigger the abnormal regulation of cancer hallmarks, impair cellular homeostasis, and stimulate tumourigenesis. Here we investigated the role of a disrupted clock by knocking out or knocking down the core-clock (CC) genes ARNTL, PER2 or NR1D1 in cancer progression (e.g., cell proliferation and invasion) using colorectal cancer (CRC) cell lines HCT116, SW480 and SW620, from different progression stages with distinct clock phenotypes, and identified mechanistic links from the clock to altered cancer-promoting cellular properties. We identified MACC1 (metastasis-associated in colon cancer 1), a known driver for metastasis and an EMT (epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition)-related gene, to be significantly differentially expressed in CC manipulated cells and analysed the effect of MACC1 manipulation (knockout or overexpression) in terms of circadian clock phenotype as well as cancer progression. Our data points to a bi-directional MACC1-circadian clock interplay in CRC, via CC genes. In particular, knocking out MACC1 reduced the period of oscillations, while its overexpression increased it. Interestingly, we found the MACC1 protein to be circadian expressed in HCT116 WT cells, which was disrupted after the knockout of CC genes, and identified a MACC1-NR1D1 protein-protein interaction. In addition, MACC1 manipulation and CC knockout altered cell invasion properties of HCT116 cells, pointing to a regulation of clock and cancer progression in CRC, possibly via the interaction of MACC1 with core-clock genes.