COX-2 inhibitors sensitize human hepatocellular carcinoma cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis

Yutaka Yamanaka, Katsuya Shiraki, Tomoko Inoue, Kazumi Miyashita, Hiroyuki Fuke, Yumi Yamaguchi, Norihiko Yamamoto, Keiichi Ito, Kazushi Sugimoto, Takeshi Nakano
International Journal of Molecular Medicine 2006, 18 (1): 41-7
Cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 is upregulated in a variety of human cancers, including in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), whereas it is undetectable in most normal tissue. Evidence suggests that COX-2 is likely to be involved in hepatocarcinogenesis and, thus, COX-2 may be involved in an early process in carcinogenesis, dedifferentiation. To address this possibility, we investigated the effect of COX-2 inhibitors on TNF-related apoptosis, inducing ligand (TRAIL) sensitivity and its molecular mechanisms, with special attention to anti-apoptotic proteins. We used the highly selective COX-2 inhibitors, NS398 and CAY10404. We also used the MTT assay and cytological analysis of DAPI-stained DNA to assess viability and apoptosis in two HCC cells (SK-Hep1 and HLE). In order to ask what led to increased sensitivity to TRAIL in HCC cells, cell surface expression of TRAIL and TRAIL-receptors was investigated using flow cytometry analysis. Expression of survivin, X-chromosome-linked IAP (XIAP), Bcl-xL, AKT and phospho-AKT was also investigated using immunoblotting. COX-2 inhibitors resulted in a concentration-dependent decrease in cell viability in the two HCC cell lines tested. Subtoxic levels of COX-2 inhibitors did not significantly augment TNFalpha-induced apoptosis but did dramatically enhance TRAIL-induced apoptosis in both cell lines. TRAIL receptor 2/death receptor 5 (TRAIL-R2/DR5) expression was significantly up-regulated in SH-Hep1 and HLE cells. TRAIL receptor 1/death receptor 4 (TRAIL-R1/DR4) expression was up-regulated only in SK-Hep1. Expression of survivin and Bcl-xL was down-regulated in SK-Hep1 and HLE cells in the presence of CAY10404 but XIAP was not affected. Expression of survivin, Bcl-xL and XIAP was down-regulated in SK-Hep1 cells in the presence of NS398. Survivin expression was also down-regulated in the presence of NS398 in HLE cells. Finally, NS398 also decreased phospho-AKT in SK-Hep1 cells. These results demonstrate that COX-2 inhibitors can induce apoptosis and augment TRAIL sensitivity by up-regulation of TRAIL receptors and down-regulation of both survivin and AKT signaling.

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