Destination ‘lysosome’: a target organelle for tumour cell killing?

Roberta Castino  1 Marina DémozCiro Isidoro



1 Dipartimento di Scienze Mediche, Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale ‘A Avogadro’, Novara, Italy.

PMID: 14523947

DOI: 10.1002/jmr.643

Review: J Mol Recognit. Sep-Oct 2003;16(5):337-48. doi: 10.1002/jmr.643.



Lysosomes and lysosome-related organelles constitute a system of acid compartments that interconnect the inside of the cell with the extracellular environment via endocytosis, phagocytosis and exocytosis. In recent decades it has been recognized that lysosomes are not just wastebaskets for disposal of unused cellular constituents, but that they are involved in several cellular processes such as post-translational maturation of proteins, degradation of receptors and extracellular release of active enzymes. By complementing the autophagic process, lysosomes actively contribute to the maintenance of cellular homeostasis. Proteolysis by lysosomal cathepsins has been shown to mediate the death signal of cytotoxic drugs and cytokines, as well as the activation of pro-survival factors. Secreted lysosomal cathepsins have been shown to degrade protein components of the extracellular matrix, thus contributing actively to its re-modelling in physiological and pathological processes. The malfunction of lysosomes can, therefore, impact on cell behaviour and fate. Here we review the role of lysosomal hydrolases in several aspects of the malignant phenotype including loss of cell growth control, altered regulation of cell death, acquisition of chemoresistance and of metastatic potential. Based on these observations, the lysosome is proposed as a potential target organelle for the chemotherapy of tumours. We will also present some recent data concerning the technologies for delivering chemotherapeutic drugs to the endosomal-lysosomal compartment and the strategies to improve their efficacy.


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