JOURNAL ARTICLE

Cardiac glycosides initiate Apo2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis in non-small cell lung cancer cells by up-regulation of death receptors 4 and 5

Steffen Frese, Manuela Frese-Schaper, Anne-Catherine Andres, Daniela Miescher, Beatrice Zumkehr, Ralph A Schmid
Cancer Research 2006 June 1, 66 (11): 5867-74
16740726
Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (Apo2L/TRAIL) belongs to the TNF family known to transduce their death signals via cell membrane receptors. Because it has been shown that Apo2L/TRAIL induces apoptosis in tumor cells without or little toxicity to normal cells, this cytokine became of special interest for cancer research. Unfortunately, cancer cells are often resistant to Apo2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis; however, this can be at least partially negotiated by parallel treatment with other substances, such as chemotherapeutic agents. Here, we report that cardiac glycosides, which have been used for the treatment of cardiac failure for many years, sensitize lung cancer cells but not normal human peripheral blood mononuclear cells to Apo2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Sensitization to Apo2L/TRAIL mediated by cardiac glycosides was accompanied by up-regulation of death receptors 4 (DR4) and 5 (DR5) on both RNA and protein levels. The use of small interfering RNA revealed that up-regulation of death receptors is essential for the demonstrated augmentation of apoptosis. Blocking of up-regulation of DR4 and DR5 alone significantly reduced cell death after combined treatment with cardiac glycosides and Apo2L/TRAIL. Combined silencing of DR4 and DR5 abrogated the ability of cardiac glycosides and Apo2L/TRAIL to induce apoptosis in an additive manner. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration that glycosides up-regulate DR4 and DR5, thereby reverting the resistance of lung cancer cells to Apo2/TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Our data suggest that the combination of Apo2L/TRAIL and cardiac glycosides may be a new interesting anticancer treatment strategy.

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