Secretoglobin 3A2 eliminates human cancer cells through pyroptosis

Shigetoshi Yokoyama, Shun Nakayama, Lei Xu, Aprile L. Pilon, Shioko Kimura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Non-canonical inflammasome activation that recognizes intracellular lipopolysaccharide (LPS) causes pyroptosis, the inflammatory death of innate immune cells. The role of pyroptosis in innate immune cells is to rapidly eliminate pathogen-infected cells and limit the replication niche in the host body. Whether this rapid cell elimination process of pyroptosis plays a role in elimination of cancer cells is largely unknown. Our earlier study demonstrated that a multi-functional secreted protein, secretoglobin (SCGB) 3A2, chaperones LPS to cytosol, and activates caspase-11 and the non-canonical inflammasome pathway, leading to pyroptosis. Here we show that SCGB3A2 exhibits marked anti-cancer activity against 5 out of 11 of human non-small cell lung cancer cell lines in mouse xenographs, while no effect was observed in 6 of 6 small cell lung cancer cell lines examined. All SCGB3A2-LPS-sensitive cells express syndecan 1 (SDC1), a SCGB3A2 cell surface receptor, and caspase-4 (CASP4), a critical component of the non-canonical inflammasome pathway. Two epithelial-derived colon cancer cell lines expressing SDC1 and CASP4 were also susceptible to SCGB3A2-LPS treatment. TCGA analysis revealed that lung adenocarcinoma patients with higher SCGB3A2 mRNA levels exhibited better survival. These data suggest that SCGB3A2 uses the machinery of pyroptosis for the elimination of human cancer cells via the non-canonical inflammasome pathway, and that SCGB3A2 may serve as a novel therapeutic to treat cancer, perhaps in combination with immuno and/or targeted therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalCell Death Discovery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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