Tunicamycin sensitizes human melanoma cells to tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand-induced apoptosis by up-regulation of TRAIL-R2 via the unfolded protein response

Chen Chen Jiang, Li Hua Chen, Susan Gillespie, Kelly A Kiejda, Nizar Mhaidat, Yu Fang Wang, Rick Thorne, Xu Dong Zhang, Peter Hersey
Cancer Research 2007 June 15, 67 (12): 5880-8
We have reported previously low expression of death receptors for tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) in fresh isolates and tissue sections of melanoma. This seemed to correlate with relative resistance of freshly isolated melanoma cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. We show in this study that the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress inducer, tunicamycin, selectively up-regulated the cell surface expression of TRAIL-R2, but not other members of the TNF receptor family, and enhanced TRAIL-induced apoptosis in cultured melanoma cells and fresh melanoma isolates. Tunicamycin-mediated sensitization of melanoma cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis was associated with increased activation of the caspase cascade and reduction in mitochondrial membrane potential and was inhibited by a recombinant TRAIL-R2/Fc chimeric protein. Up-regulation of TRAIL-R2 on the melanoma cell surface was associated with increased transcription of TRAIL-R2 and its total protein levels. Two signaling pathways of the ER stress-induced unfolded protein response mediated by inositol-requiring transmembrane kinase and endonuclease 1alpha (IRE1alpha) and activation of transcription factor 6 (ATF6), respectively, seemed to be involved. In one melanoma line, there was clear evidence of activation of the IRE1alpha pathway, and small interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown of IRE1alpha substantially reduced the up-regulation of TRAIL-R2. Similarly, there was evidence for the activation of the ATF6 pathway, and siRNA knockdown of ATF6 had a delayed effect on TRAIL-R2 expression in one but not another melanoma cell line. Moreover, the transcription factor CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein homologous protein seemed to be involved in the up-regulation of TRAIL-R2 by tunicamycin, but its role varied between different melanoma lines. Taken together, our results suggest that agents that induce ER stress may enhance TRAIL-R2 expression and increase the therapeutic response to TRAIL in melanoma.

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