Alternative splicing of Apoptosis Stimulating Protein of TP53-2 (ASPP2) results in an oncogenic isoform promoting migration and therapy resistance in soft tissue sarcoma (STS)

Vasileia Tsintari, Bianca Walter, Falko Fend, Mathis Overkamp, Christian Rothermundt, Charles D. Lopez, Marcus M. Schittenhelm, Kerstin M. Kampa-Schittenhelm

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Background: Metastatic soft tissue sarcoma (STS) are a heterogeneous group of malignancies which are not curable with chemotherapy alone. Therefore, understanding the molecular mechanisms of sarcomagenesis and therapy resistance remains a critical clinical need. ASPP2 is a tumor suppressor, that functions through both p53-dependent and p53-independent mechanisms. We recently described a dominant-negative ASPP2 isoform (ASPP2κ), that is overexpressed in human leukemias to promote therapy resistance. However, ASPP2κ has never been studied in STS. Materials and methods: Expression of ASPP2κ was quantified in human rhabdomyosarcoma tumors using immunohistochemistry and qRT-PCR from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) and snap-frozen tissue. To study the functional role of ASPP2κ in rhabdomyosarcoma, isogenic cell lines were generated by lentiviral transduction with short RNA hairpins to silence ASPP2κ expression. These engineered cell lines were used to assess the consequences of ASPP2κ silencing on cellular proliferation, migration and sensitivity to damage-induced apoptosis. Statistical analyses were performed using Student’s t-test and 2-way ANOVA. Results: We found elevated ASPP2κ mRNA in different soft tissue sarcoma cell lines, representing five different sarcoma sub-entities. We found that ASSP2κ mRNA expression levels were induced in these cell lines by cell-stress. Importantly, we found that the median ASPP2κ expression level was higher in human rhabdomyosarcoma in comparison to a pool of tumor-free tissue. Moreover, ASPP2κ levels were elevated in patient tumor samples versus adjacent tumor-free tissue within individual patients. Using isogenic cell line models with silenced ASPP2κ expression, we found that suppression of ASPP2κ enhanced chemotherapy-induced apoptosis and attenuated cellular proliferation. Conclusion: Detection of oncogenic ASPP2κ in human sarcoma provides new insights into sarcoma tumor biology. Our data supports the notion that ASPP2κ promotes sarcomagenesis and resistance to therapy. These observations provide the rationale for further evaluation of ASPP2κ as an oncogenic driver as well as a prognostic tool and potential therapeutic target in STS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number725
JournalBMC cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • ASPP2κ
  • Alternative splicing
  • Apoptosis
  • Oncogenes
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Soft tissue sarcoma
  • Therapy resistance
  • Tumor suppressor
  • p53

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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