c-FLIP downregulation contributes to apoptosis induction by the novel synthetic triterpenoid methyl-2-cyano-3, 12-dioxooleana-1, 9-dien-28-oate (CDDO-Me) in human lung cancer cells

Wei Zou, Shuzhen Chen, Xiangguo Liu, Ping Yue, Michael B Sporn, Fadlo R Khuri, Shi-Yong Sun
Cancer Biology & Therapy 2007, 6 (10): 1614-20
The novel synthetic triterpenoid methyl-2-cyano-3, 12-dioxooleana-1, 9-dien-28-oate (CDDO-Me) induces apoptosis of cancer cells, enhances tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)-induced apoptosis, and exhibits potent anticancer activity in animal models with a favorable pharmacokinetic profile. Thus, CDDO-Me is being tested in Phase I clinical trials. In an effort to understand the mechanism by which CDDO-Me induces apoptosis, particularly in human lung cancer cells, we previously demonstrated that CDDO-Me induces apoptosis involving c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)-dependent upregulation of death receptor 5 (DR5) expression. In the current work, we determined the modulatory effects of CDDO-Me on the levels of c-FLIP, a major inhibitor of death receptor-mediated caspase-8 activation, and its impact on CDDO-Me-induced apoptosis and enhancement of TRAIL-induced apoptosis in human lung cancer cells. CDDO-Me rapidly and potently decreased c-FLIP levels including both long (FLIP(L)) and short (FLIP(S)) forms of c-FLIP in multiple human lung cancer cell lines. The presence of the proteasome inhibitor MG132, but not the JNK inhibitor SP600125, prevented CDDO-Me-induced c-FLIP reduction. Moreover, CDDO-Me increased ubiquitination of c-FLIP. Thus, CDDO-Me induces ubiquitin/proteasome-dependent c-FLIP degradation independently of JNK activation. Importantly, overexpression of c-FLIP (e.g., FLIP(L)) protected cells not only from CDDO-Me-induced apoptosis, but also from induction of apoptosis by the combination of CDDO-Me and TRAIL. Accordingly, silencing of c-FLIP with c-FLIP siRNA sensitized cancer cells to CDDO-Me. Collectively, these results indicate that c-FLIP downregulation contributes to CDDO-Me-initiated apoptosis and also to enhancement of TRAIL-induced apoptosis by CDDO-Me.

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