JNK and AP-1 mediate apoptosis induced by bortezomib in HepG2 cells via FasL/caspase-8 and mitochondria-dependent pathways

M Lauricella, S Emanuele, A D'Anneo, G Calvaruso, B Vassallo, D Carlisi, P Portanova, R Vento, G Tesoriere
Apoptosis: An International Journal on Programmed Cell Death 2006, 11 (4): 607-25
The proteasome inhibitor bortezomib is an efficacious apoptotic agent in many tumor cells. This paper shows that bortezomib induced apoptosis in human hepatoma HepG2 cells associated with many modifications in the expression of survival or death factors. Although bortezomib increased the level of the protective factors HSP70 and HSP27, the effects of the drug that favour cell death were predominant. These events include accumulation of c-Jun, phospho-c-Jun and p53; increase in FasL level with activation of caspase-8; changes related to members of Bcl-2 family with increase in the level of pro-apoptotic members and decrease in that of anti-apoptotic ones; dissipation of mitochondrial potential with cytochrome c release and activation of caspase-3. In contrast, Chang liver cells exhibited a very low susceptibility to bortezomib-induced apoptosis, which was accompanied by modest modifications in the expression of apoptotic factors. In HepG2 cells bortezomib markedly increased AP-1 activity and the expression of its transcriptional targets such as c-Jun, FasL, BimEL, which are involved in apoptosis. Moreover, AP-1 induced its own production by increasing c-Jun content in the composition of the same AP-1 complex. In addition, bortezomib caused activation of JNK1, which in turn increased the level of phospho-c-Jun as well as stimulated the activation of caspase-3 and t-Bid, two fundamental apoptotic factors. Interestingly, siRNA silencing of c-Jun or JNK1 reduced HepG2 cell susceptibility to apoptosis and prevented the increase in AP-1 activity. Both JNK-1 and AP-1 thus exerted a crucial role in bortezomib-induced apoptosis. Differently, in Chang liver cells the different composition of AP-1 complex as well as the failure of JNK activation seemed to be responsible for the low susceptibility to apoptosis. Given the high susceptibility of hepatoma cells to bortezomib, our results suggest the potential application of this compound in clinical trials for liver cancers.

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