BH3 mimetic ABT-737 potentiates TRAIL-mediated apoptotic signaling by unsequestering Bim and Bak in human pancreatic cancer cells

Shengbing Huang, Frank A Sinicrope
Cancer Research 2008 April 15, 68 (8): 2944-51
Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) has been shown to induce mitochondrial apoptotic signaling that can be negatively regulated by prosurvival Bcl-2 proteins. ABT-737 is a small-molecule BH3 mimetic that binds to and antagonizes Bcl-2/Bcl-x(L) but not Mcl-1. We show that ABT-737 can synergistically enhance TRAIL-mediated cytotoxicity in human pancreatic cancer cell lines. ABT-737 was shown to enhance TRAIL-induced apoptosis as shown by DNA fragmentation, activation of caspase-8 and Bid, and cleavage of caspase-3 and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase. A Bax conformational change induced by TRAIL was enhanced by ABT-737. ABT-737 disrupted the interaction of Bak with Bcl-x(L) in both cell lines. Furthermore, ABT-737 untethered the proapoptotic BH3-only protein Bim from its sequestration by Bcl-x(L) or Bcl-2. Bim small hairpin RNA (shRNA) was shown to attenuate caspase-3 cleavage and to reduce the cytotoxic effects of TRAIL plus ABT-737 compared with shRNA control cells. Finally, Mcl-1 shRNA potentiated caspase-3 cleavage by ABT-737 and enhanced its cytotoxic effects. Taken together, ABT-737 augments TRAIL-induced cell killing by unsequestering Bim and Bak and enhancing a Bax conformational change induced by TRAIL. These findings suggest a novel strategy to enhance cross-talk between the extrinsic and intrinsic apoptotic pathways to improve therapeutic efficacy against pancreatic cancer.

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