JOURNAL ARTICLE

Induction of apoptosis by apicidin, a histone deacetylase inhibitor, via the activation of mitochondria-dependent caspase cascades in human Bcr-Abl-positive leukemia cells

June-Won Cheong, So Young Chong, Ji Yeon Kim, Ju In Eom, Hoi Kyung Jeung, Ho Young Maeng, Seung Tae Lee, Yoo Hong Min
Clinical Cancer Research 2003 October 15, 9 (13): 5018-27
14581377

PURPOSE: Apicidin, a histone deacetylase inhibitor, is a novel cyclic tetrapeptide that exhibits potent antiproliferative activity against various cancer cell lines. The aim of this study was to examine the potential of apicidin to induce apoptosis in human Bcr-Abl-positive leukemia cells and to assess the mechanism of apicidin-induced apoptosis.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Cells were exposed to various concentrations of apicidin for 2-72 h, after which the levels of apoptosis, histone acetylation, mitochondrial damage, caspase activation, and Bcr-Abl expression were assessed.

RESULTS: Apicidin induced apoptosis in K562 cells in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. Similarly, apicidin notably induced the apoptosis in the primary leukemic blasts obtained from chronic myelogenous leukemia patients in blast crisis. The acetylated histone H4 levels increased in a concentration-dependent manner in the K562 cells. However, the timing of cell death caused by apicidin did not exactly correlate with the histone deacetylase inhibitory effect. The disruption of the mitochondrial membrane potential, cytochrome c release into the cytosol, and the mitochondrial Bax translocation were notably demonstrated after the apicidin treatment. Apicidin induced the proteolytic cleavage of procaspase-9, -3, -8, and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase. Pretreatment of the K562 cells with the caspase-3 inhibitor, DEVD-CHO, completely inhibited the apicidin-induced apoptosis, suggesting that apicidin-induced apoptosis was caspase-dependent. The Fas/Fas ligand death receptor pathway was not involved in the apicidin-mediated apoptosis in K562 cells. Pretreatment of the cells with the caspase-9 inhibitor LEHD-fmk abrogated the apicidin- induced cleavage of procaspase-3, -8, and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase. The p210 Bcr-Abl protein levels were notably decreased after the apicidin treatment, with near complete loss after 48 h. Reverse transcription-PCR assay demonstrated that the Bcr-Abl mRNA level was also remarkably decreased in a time-dependent manner.

CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that apicidin effectively induces the apoptosis of Bcr-Abl-positive leukemia cells through the activation of the mitochondrial pathway-dependent caspase cascades. The down-regulation of Bcr-Abl mRNA might also be one of the mechanisms implicated in the apicidin-mediated apoptosis in the K562 cells. This study provides the rationale to additionally investigate apicidin as a potential therapeutic agent for the drug-resistant Bcr-Abl-positive leukemia cells.

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