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EphA5 Silencing Increases the Radiosensitivity of ESCC Cells Through ATM-Dependent Pathway

Authors Zhang R, Han D, Li L, Luo W, Liu J, Qian L

Received 7 May 2020

Accepted for publication 23 July 2020

Published 2 October 2020 Volume 2020:12 Pages 9539—9549


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Sanjeev K. Srivastava

Rui Zhang,1,* Dan Han,2,* Lu Li,2,* Wenguang Luo,3 Jing Liu,4 Liting Qian3

1Department of Oncology, QingPu Branch of Zhongshan Hospital Affiliated to Fudan University, Shanghai 201799, People’s Republic of China; 2Division of Life Science and Medicine, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, Anhui 230001, People’s Republic of China; 3Department of Radiation Oncology, The First Affiliated Hospital of USTC, Division of Life Sciences and Medicine, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, Anhui 230001, People’s Republic of China; 4Department of Pathology, Qing Pu Branch of Zhongshan Hospital Affiliated to Fudan University, Shanghai 201799, People’s Republic of China

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence: Liting Qian
Department of Radiation Oncology, The First Affiliated Hospital of USTC, Division of Life Sciences and Medicine, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, Anhui 230001, People’s Republic of China
Email [email protected]

Background: Radiotherapy is one of the most important treatments for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). Previously, we found that EphA5 expression was increased in ESCC cells and tumor tissues. Studies from other groups reported that EphA5 is abnormally expressed in numerous malignant tumors and may be involved in the radiosensitivity of lung cancer. However, the role of EphA5 in radiotherapy for ESCC remains unclear.
Methods: The siRNA sequences against human EPHA5 were transfected to the ESCC cells (KYSE150 and KYSE450). After ionizing radiation (IR), cell viability and colony formation assays were used to test the changes of cell proliferation in EphA5-silenced cells. Flow cytometry analysis was performed to investigate the cell apoptosis and cycle in the irradiated cells interfered by siRNA. The key molecules involved in cell cycle checkpoints and DNA damage repair were evaluated by Western blot and immunofluorescence.
Results: CCK8 assay and clonogenic assay showed that the proliferation of EphA5-silenced ESCC cells was inhibited after IR. At 24 h post-IR treatment, we found that the G1/S checkpoint triggered by DNA damage in EphA5-silenced cells was defective. γ-H2AX foci in the irradiated EphA5-silenced cells were impaired at 0.5 h post-IR treatment as well as ATM activation. The defective activation of ATM resulted in a decrease of p-Chk2, p-p53 and p21 expression.
Conclusion: In conclusion, these results indicate that EphA5 silencing increases radiosensitivity in ESCC cells through ATM-dependent pathway, which provides a potential target for the radiotherapy in ESCC.

Keywords: EphA5, esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, radiosensitivity, ATM


Esophageal cancer has received more and more attention over the past several decades due to changes in epidemiological modes and increasing treatment options. Esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) and esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) are two main subtypes of esophageal cancer (EC). EAC widely exists in Europe and America, while ESCC is more common in some African countries and Eastern Asia.1 For the high regional lymph node metastasis rate and extensive local invasion, the overall survival of ESCC is poor although rapid development of multidisciplinary treatments.24 Many therapeutic options are used for oesophageal cancer, but radiotherapy plays an important role in the treatment of ESCC patients no matter whether tumors can be surgically removed or not.

Previous researches showed that adjuvant radiotherapy improved control of local disease versus surgery alone.58 It is widely accepted that neo-adjuvant chemotherapy918 or neo-adjuvant chemoradiotherapy (CRT)11,1924 is currently considered standard for locally advanced ESCC patients and definitive CRT is recommended for the inoperable locally advanced ESCC patients.25 Residual disease, locoregional recurrence and distant metastasis were the most common reasons for the treatment failure, due to multiple factors including tumor radioresistance or poor radiosensitivity. In addition, patients after treatment with 60 Gy or a higher dose experience higher toxicity, such as radiation pneumonitis pleural effusion and pericarditis. Thus, searching for new molecular targets specific for tumor radiosensitivity may be a solution for the ESCC patients treated with RT.

The erythropoietin-producing hepatocellular (Eph) receptors constitute the largest family of receptor tyrosine kinases. Until now fourteen Eph receptors and eight different ephrin ligands are identified, and divided into A and B classes. Nine EphA receptors bind five ephrin-A ligands, and five EphB receptors bind three ephrin-B ligands.26 By interacting with the ephrins, Eph receptors get diverse activities, including regulating cell shape, movement, survival, and proliferation.27 EphA5, a member of Eph receptors, was firstly discovered in adult mouse brain. It has been reported that EphA5 was differentially detected in various human cancers, including pancreatic, gastric, colon, ovarian, prostate, breast, and lung cancer.2834 Moreover, cell cycle checkpoints and DNA damage repair induced by ionizing radiation (IR) can be regulated by EphA5 in human lung cancer,34 which indicated that EphA5 was associated with the radiosensitivity of lung cancer.

Our previous study showed that EphA5 was highly expressed in ESCC cells and tissues.35 In this study, we aimed to certificate whether EphA5 can regulate the radiosensitivity of ESCC cells and the possible mechanism involved in it. We investigated the function of EphA5 in ESCC cells and characterized the role of EphA5 in regulating the proliferation, migration, invasion, apoptosis, cell cycle, clonogenicity of ESCC cells after ionizing radiation.

Materials and Methods


Cell Counting Kit-8 was obtained from Sigma. Antibody against EphA5 was provided by Thermo Fisher Scientific. Antibodies of p-ATM, γHA2X, Chk2, p53 and p-p53 were purchased from Cell Signaling Technology. Antibodies of Gapdh and Tubulin were provided by Proteintech. All primers were synthesized by General Biosystems (Chuzhou, China). The HiScript II Q RT SuperMix and the AceQ qPCR SYBR Green Master Mixt were provided by Vazyme Biotech Co (Nanjing, China). Annexin V-FITC and propidium iodide were obtained from Beyotime (Shanghai, China). Fetal bovine serum (FBS) and RPMI-1640 medium and other cell culture reagents were acquired from Gibco.

Cell Culture

Human esophageal carcinoma cell lines (KYSE150, KYSE450) were provided by the Chinese Academy of Cell Resource Center (Shanghai, China), grown in RPMI-1640 (Invitrogen, NY, USA) with 10% FBS (Invitrogen, NY, USA) at 37°C in an incubator with 5% CO2.

EphA5 siRNA and qPCR

Two different siRNAs (“siRNA1/2”) against human EPHA5[39] were transfected to the KYSE150 and KYSE450 cells. Then, EphA5 expression was examined by quantitative-PCR and Western blotting assays. Total RNA of the targeted cells and the tissues of patients was extracted using the TRIzol (Sigma). The HiScript II Q RT SuperMix (Nanjing, China) was applied for reverse transcription. Then, RNA expression was quantified by the SYBR Green-based real-time PCR analysis. Quantification of targeted mRNAs was calculated using 2−ΔΔCt method with Gapdh RNA as the internal reference. mRNA primers were listed as follows:





CCK8 Assay

Briefly, human ESCC cells (3×103 cells/well) were seeded in 96-well plates. 10 μL/well of CCK8 (Sigma) was added every 24 h after cells were planted. The OD value at 450 nm was determined by testing absorbance after adding CCK8 for 2 h.

Clonogenic Assay

Twenty-four hours after transfection, cells were seeded into 6-well plates and exposed to 0, 2, 4, 6 and 8 Gy of radiation. After irradiation, cells were fixed and then stained with crystal violet after incubation for 14 days. We counted the colonies with 50 or more cells. Plating efficiency (PE) was calculated in triplicate as PE = (colony number/plating cell number)×100%. The surviving fraction (SF) was estimated by calculating SF = colony number/(cells seeded×plating efficiency).

Western Blot

Seventy-two hours after transfection, total protein of treated cells was extracted. For the subsequent experiment, the protein concentration was determined by BCA Protein Assay Kit (Beyotime, Shanghai, China). About 30 μg extracted cellular proteins were isolated and then transferred onto the polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF) membrane (0.45 μm, Millipore, Billerica, MA, USA). After the PVDF membrane was blocked, primary antibodies were added and incubated overnight at 4°C. The next day secondary antibodies were added and then ECL kit (Thermo Scientific, Waltham, MA, USA) was applied to detect the blots.

Flow Cytometry

After transfection with siRNA duplexes for 24 h, the cells were exposed to 4 Gy of irradiation for cell apoptosis analysis and 8 Gy for cell cycle analysis. Twenty-four hours after irradiation, the cells were harvested. For cell apoptosis assay, Annexin V-FITC and propidium iodide (Beyotime, shanghai, China) were used to identify the apoptotic cells. Then, the treated cells were analyzed by flow cytometry (Beckman, USA). As for cell cycle analysis, before the cells were tested, the harvested cells were fixed and incubated with propidium iodide (Beyotime, shanghai, China) for staining the cells nuclei. FlowJo software (Tree Star, Ashland, OR, USA) and Modfit LT (Verity Software House, Topsham, ME, USA) were used for cell apoptosis and cycle analysis, respectively.


In brief, the cells were exposed to 4 Gy of irradiation after transfection with siRNA duplexes for 48 h. 0.5 h, 8h and 24 h after irradiation, the cells were fixed with 4% paraformaldehyde and blocked with 5% bovine serum albumin (BSA) before overnight incubation at 4°C with antibodies against p-ATM and γH2AX, followed by incubation with Cy3 goat anti-rabbit IgG antibody for 1 h in the dark. Nuclear counterstaining was performed with 4ʹ,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI). The fluorescence intensity of cells was captured by a fluorescence microscope (Olympus Corp, Tokyo, Japan).

Statistical Analysis

All experimental data were presented as means ± standard deviation (SD) and each experiment were repeated at least three times. Student’s t-test or one-way ANOVA analysis was used for multiple comparisons. P-value < 0.05 was considered significant.


EphA5 Was Silenced by siRNAs

Compared with the NC group, RT-PCR and Western blot assays showed that transfection with both siRNA1 and siRNA2 can down-regulate the expression of EphA5 in esophageal cancer cells. And the EphA5 expression of the cells transfected with the siRNA1 was lower than the siRNA2 (Figure 1). Therefore, in the subsequent experiments, we selected siRNA1 (replace with si-EphA5 later) for transfection of esophageal cancer cells to knockdown the EphA5 expression.

Figure 1 Expression of EphA5 after transfection of siRNA1 and siRNA2 into KYSE150 and KYSE450 cells. (A) 48 hours after transfection, the expression of EphA5 mRNA in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma cells was down-regulated in siRNA1 and siRNA2 groups. (B) 72 hours after transfection, the expression of EphA5 protein in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma cells was down-regulated in the siRNA1 and siRNA2 groups. **P<0.01, ***P<0.001.

EphA5 Silencing Inhibited ESCC Cells Growth and Proliferation After IR

To further evaluate the effect of EphA5 on radiotherapy in ESCC, transfection of si-EphA5 to KYSE150 and KYSE450 cells were performed. After plated in 96-well plates for 12 h, the treated cells were exposed to 4 Gy of irradiation. After that, CCK8 assay was carried out to determine the cells viability. Transfection of si-EphA5 could remarkably deplete EphA5 expression in KYSE150 and KYSE450 cells. When cells were cultured without irradiation, the proliferation rate of the negative control group was slightly lower than that of the EphA5-silenced group . However, if the treated cells were exposed to irradiation, the proliferation of KYSE150 cells with lower EphA5 expression was significantly inhibited as well as the KYSE450 cells (Figure 2A-D). Moreover, clonogenic assay was also applied to detect radiotherapy sensitivity of the transfected cells. The results revealed that EphA5 silencing obviously reduced the number of colonies in KYSE450 and KYSE150 cells after different doses of irradiation (Figure 2E-H). After transfected with si-EphA5, the SER (sensitization enhancement ratio) of KYSE150 and KYSE450 cells was 1.56 and 1.21, respectively. The related radiobiological parameters are summarized in Table 1. These results implied that EphA5 silencing resulted in ESCC cells more sensitive to irradiation.

Table 1 Radiosensitization Effects of EphA5 Silencing on ESCC Cells in vitro

Figure 2 EphA5 silencing inhibits proliferation of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma cells after IR. (A and B) EphA5 down-regulation slightly promoted cell proliferation without irradiation. (C and D) EphA5 down-regulation significantly inhibited cell proliferation after IR. (E and F) Survival curves of KYSE150 and KYSE450 cells after EphA5 down-regulation. (G and H) The number of clones formed in different groups of KYSE150 and KYSE450 cells (si-EphA5 and NC groups) after IR. *P<0.05, **P<0.01.

EphA5 Silencing Leaded to a Defective G1/S Cell Cycle Checkpoint in ESCC Cells After IR

Having confirmed that after irradiation ESCC cells proliferation and clonal formation ability were suppressed by EphA5 silencing, we wondered whether these were caused by cell apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. In the nonirradiated cells, we did not find significant differences in cell apoptosis and cell cycle between the EphA5-silenced cells and negative controls (data not shown). However, when exponentially growing ESCC cells were treated with irradiation, an obvious increase in S fraction was observed accompanied with a decrease in G2/M phase cells (Figure 3). We recorded the distribution of cells in the cell cycle phases (G0, G1, S, and G2-M) by FCAS analysis. G1/S radios were calculated to evaluate whether G1/S cell cycle checkpoint was activated.34 Essentially, when cells are exposed to ionizing radiation, the DNA damage is induced and cells will be arrested in the G1, S, and G2 phases of the cell cycle. The G1 and G2 checkpoints are critical to the DNA-damaged cells to ensure themselves to repair possible defects. In comparison to negative control irradiated cells, a lower G1/S ratio was observed, which indicated that G1/S checkpoint triggered by DNA damage in EphA5-silenced cells might be defective. Also, a reduction of G2/M phase in EphA5-silenced cells was detected. Detailed data of cell cycle distribution were summarized in Table 2. But a marked difference in cell apoptosis between the two groups after ionizing radiation was not observed (data not shown). Thus, we conclude that EphA5 silencing leads to a defective G1/S cell cycle checkpoint in ESCC cells after IR.

Table 2 EphA5 Silencing Leading to a Defective G1/S Checkpoint in ESCC Cells

Figure 3 Cycle changes of esophageal squamous cells after EphA5 downregulation. KYSE150-siEphA5 (A), KYSE150-NC (B), KYSE450-siEphA5 (C), KYSE450-NC (D), without IR; KYSE150-siEphA5 (E), KYSE150-NC (F), KYSE450-siEphA5 (G), KYSE450-NC (H), after IR; Comparison of G1/S ratio between si-EphA5 and NC cells without IR (I and J); Comparison of G1/S ratio between si-EphA5 and NC cells receiving 8Gy irradiation (K and L). **P<0.01,***P<0.001.

EphA5 Silencing Impaired the Ability to Repair DNA Damage in ESCC Cells

Since EphA5 silencing could increase radiotherapy sensitivity of ESCC cells, phosphorylated histone H2AX (γ-H2AX), a marker of DNA double strand breaks (DSBs),36 was analyzed by immunofluorescence. After irradiation with 4 Gy for 0.5 h, the number of γ-H2AX foci-positive cells was decreased following the depletion of EphA5 using siRNA transfection compared with the negative controls. While exposure to ionizing radiation for 8 h and 24 h, there were more γ-H2AX foci-positive cells in the EphA5-silenced groups than in negative groups (Figure 4). The number of γ-H2AX foci-positive cells in the EphA5-silenced groups exposed to IR for 8 h was more than that of cells exposed to IR for 0.5 and 24 h. And the number of γ-H2AX foci-positive cells at 24 h was more than at 0.5 h. But a significant decrease of approximately γ-H2AX foci-positive cells was observed in negative groups at 8 h and 24h versus at 0.5 h after IR. It implies that DNA repair caused by ionizing radiation was impaired and slowed down.

Figure 4 EphA5 down-regulation affects γH2AX foci change in esophageal squamous carcinoma cells after IR. (A–D) Changes of γH2AX foci in KYSE150 and KYSE450 cells (si-EphA5 and NC groups) at different time periods after IR, red: γH2AX foci, blue: nucleus. (E and F) The foci in the nuclei were counted, 50 cells were recorded for each group. The average of the foci in each cell was calculated. ***P<0.001.

EphA5 Silencing Caused an Impairment of ATM Activation

ATM, which belongs to the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-related kinase family, plays an important role in the development of cancer including cell cycle checkpoints and DNA DSB repair.37 DNA-double strand breaks activate ATM to control the G1/S and G2/M checkpoint. To further understand the role of EphA5 in the response to DNA damage, phosphorylated ataxia telangiectasia mutated kinase (p-ATM), a marker for ATM kinase activation, was first detected after irradiation with 4 Gy. As shown in Figure 5A and B, Western blot indicated that the phosphorylated ATM expression in the negative group cells was high at 0.5 h post-IR treatment while decreased rapidly at 24 h. Compared with the negative control groups, the expression of phosphorylated ATM in the si-EphA5 group cells was obviously decreased at 0.5 h post-IR treatment while increased at 24 h. Immunofluorescence of p-ATM confirmed the p-ATM expression of ESCC cells regulated by EphA5 silencing after IR (Figure 5C). The results indicated that the activation of ATM was impaired in the EphA5-silenced cells.

Figure 5 EphA5 down-regulation affects p-ATM in KYSE150 cells after IR. (A and B) P-ATM protein expression in KYSE150 cells (si-EphA5 and NC groups) after IR. (C) Immunofluorescence was used to detect the fluorescence intensity of p-ATM in KYSE150 cells, * P<0.05,** P<0.01, ***P<0.001.

EphA5 Silencing Leaded to Incomplete Activation of p53 and ATM, Resulting in the Decrease Transcription of P21 Gene

As we know, ATM can potentially phosphorylate numerous downstream targets including p53, Chk2, MDM2, NBS1, RAD9 and BRCA1. p53’s phosphorylation can upregulate p21 after exposure to ionizing radiation, which leads to cell cycle arrest in G1. Since a lower G1/S ratio of cell cycle was observed in the EphA5-silenced cells after IR, we examined the levels of p53, Chk2 and p21 by Western blot. In the EphA5-silenced cells, the phosphorylated p53 (Ser15) was decreased significantly after irradiation for 0.5 h compared with the negative cells (Figure 6A). P21 is an important cyclin-dependent-kinase inhibitor which is one of the major targets of p53. When cells were exposed to ionizing radiation and DNA damage was triggered, p21 regulates transition from the G1 to the S phase. Immunoblotting assay showed that EphA5 silencing could downregulate the p21 levels in comparison with the negative groups after irradiation (Figure 6A). Checkpoint kinases 2 (Chk2) regulate DNA replication and DNA damage response and is activated by ataxia telangiectasia mutated kinase (ATM). Therefore, phosphorylated Chk2 was detected by Western blotting. As Figure 6A shows, irradiation-induced phosphorylation of Chk2 was impaired in EphA5-silenced cells after irradiation for 0.5 h. These data suggest that EphA5 silencing causes an impairment of G1/S cell cycle checkpoint activation.

Figure 6 EphA5 down-regulation regulates the expression of cell cycle-related proteins in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma after IR. Gapdh was used as an internal reference. (A) EphA5 silencing leaded to incomplete activation of p53 and Chk2, resulting in the decrease transcription of p21 gene. (B) EphA5 silencing did not caused the changes of cyclinB1, Cdc2 and phospho-cdc2 expression.

In addition, a reduction of G2/M phase after exposed to IR was observed in the EphA5-silenced cells. To investigate whether EphA5 silencing influenced G2/M checkpoint, Cdc2/cyclinB1 complex as a key regulator in G2/M phase was checked by immunoblotting. Unfortunately, no significant differences of cyclinB1, Cdc2 and phospho-cdc2 expression between the EphA5-silenced cells and negative controls was observed (Figure 6B). Thus, the reduction of G2/M phase in the EphA5-silenced cells could not be attributed to the G2/M checkpoint activation being suppressed.


Previous studies have reported that EphA5 was differentially expressed in different malignant tumors. In colorectal carcinoma, EphA5 was associated with depth of wall invasion, tumor differentiation and lymph node metastasis. And reduced expression of EphA5 implied poor prognosis of colorectal carcinoma.30 Chen et al revealed that loss of EphA5 expression was detected in most ovarian serous carcinoma and was associated with tumor grade, FIGO stage and poor prognosis.31 But the expression of EphA5 in ESCC patients was rarely reported up to date. Our previous study showed that EphA5 was highly expressed in ESCC cells and tissues.35 In this study, we analyzed the relationship between EphA5 gene and radiosensitivity in ESCC cells.

The roles of EphA5 have been studied in multiple cancers. For example, Li et al32 found that EphA5 could inhibit the ability of invasion and migration in prostate cancer cell. In the HER2-positive breast cancer patients, it was considered that EphA5 regulated breast cancer cell sensitivity to trastuzumab through Notch1 and PTEN/AKT pathways.38 However, the function of EphA5 in esophageal cancer remains unknown. As we know, radiotherapy plays an important role in the treatment of esophageal cancer. It has shown that EphA5 seems to be a biomarker of radioresistance in lung cancer.34 So whether EphA5 is involved in the radiosensitivity of esophageal cancer was explored. First, we found that the proliferation of EphA5-silenced cells was obviously inhibited after exposure to ionizing radiation. The ability to form colonies in EphA5-silenced cells was also suppressed after IR. The results were consistent with the previous research, which showed that the colonies of EphA5-silenced lung cancer cells were dramatically reduced and the ability to form subcutaneous tumors in vivo was impaired.34

It is certain that DNA is the effective target in radiotherapy for achieving cancer cell death. Both single- and double-strand DNA breaks can be induced by ionizing radiation. Cell cycle regulation and repair mechanisms to double-strand DNA damage are the most important determinant of radiation sensitivity.39 Since a decrease of proliferation in EphA5-silenced cells was observed, we further analyzed the cell cycle and apoptosis. We did not find that EphA5 silencing could promote apoptosis after irradiation compared with the negative groups. In spite of that, we observed a lower G1/S ratio and a decrease in G2/M phase in EphA5-silenced cells exposed to ionizing radiation. Because a large number of cells transiting from G1 to S phase leads to a lower G1/S ratio, DNA damage triggering G1/S cell cycle checkpoint in EphA5-silenced cells might be defective. Staquicini et al34 also certificated that EphA5 silencing could result in a lower G1/S ratio in lung cancer cells after irradiation. Interestingly, a recent study revealed that EphA5 overexpression could arrest cell cycle in S phase in HER2-positive breast cancer cells.38 But our present study did not find that EphA5 silencing could result in cell cycle arrest in the nonirradiated cells.

Next, we discussed the possible mechanism involved in the effect of EphA5 regulating radiation sensitivity. DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), which is the most hazardous form of DNA lesion, can result in cell death and genomic instability.40 H2AX phosphorylation or ATM activation is an early event in response to DSBs. Thence, γ-H2AX and p-ATM were detected after irradiation for 4 Gy. We showed that γ-H2AX and p-ATM foci-positive cells of EphA5-silenced groups were less than the negative groups at 0.5 h post-IR treatment. But at 24 h post-IR treatment, the number of γ-H2AX and p-ATM foci-positive cells was larger in the EphA5-silenced groups. This is consistent with reported data that IR-induced γ-H2AX foci formation is ATM dependent.41 Staquicini et al34 found that the transport of EphA5 to the nucleus in irradiated lung cancer cells was confirmed. Ten minutes after cell irradiation, coimmunostaining assay showed colocalization of EphA5 and p-ATM at nuclear sites of DNA damage repair, which indicated an interaction between p-ATM and the cytoplasmic domain of EphA5.34 Consistent with this study, we showed that ATM activation was impaired upon IR.

Upon IR, ATM activation leads to phosphorylation of Chk2 and p53, which acts an important role in cell cycle transition following exposure to stress. ATM-p53-p21/ATM-Chk2-CDC25A pathways control G1/S arrest, and ATM-Chk2-CDC25C/ATM-p53-CDC2-cyclinB1 pathways regulate S phase and G2-M arrest, respectively.42 For a lower G1/S ratio and a decrease of G2/M phase were observed in EphA5-silenced cells after IR, we tested the downstream targets of ATM including Chk2, p53, p21, cyclinB1 and CDC2. It reveals that EphA5 silencing results in a decrease of phosphorylated p53 in irradiated cells, with p21 expression down-regulated as a consequence. Phosphorylation of Chk2 is severely impaired while no increase or decrease in the expression of cyclinB1 and CDC2 was observed. Thus, we conclude that EphA5 regulating cell cycle is ATM-dependent. Staquicini et al also investigated the cell cycle in lung cancer cells upon IR. They found that phosphorylation of Chk2 was severely impaired and G1/S checkpoint was defective in the EphA5-silenced cells after IR.34


Here, our study indicates that EphA5 is associated with the sensitivity to radiotherapy in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. The mechanism involved in radiosensitivity is that EphA5 silencing leads to a defective DSBs repair caused by ATM activation impairment, with a defective G1/S checkpoint activation as a result. Further studies are needed to explain the mechanism by which EphA5 affects the activation of ATM. Moreover, the roles of EphA5 in tumorigenesis and development of ESCC should be investigated in the future. Nonetheless, the present study indicates that EphA5 silencing increases radiosensitivity in ESCC cells through ATM-dependent pathway in response to DSBs.

Data Sharing Statement

All the data used for the present study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


Dan Han and Lu Li are co-first authors for this study.


This work was supported by National Key Research and Development Project (No. 2016YFB1000905), Shanghai Qingpu District Health System Personnel Training Project (WY2019-62, WY2019-10).


The authors report no conflicts of interest for this work.


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