Akt-mediated eminent expression of c-FLIP and Mcl-1 confers acquired resistance to TRAIL-induced cytotoxicity to lung cancer cells

Xia Wang, Wenshu Chen, Weihua Zeng, Lang Bai, Yohannes Tesfaigzi, Steven A Belinsky, Yong Lin
Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 2008, 7 (5): 1156-63
Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is a potential anticancer agent due to its selectivity in killing transformed cells. However, TRAIL can also stimulate the proliferation and metastasis of TRAIL-resistant cancer cells. Thus, acquired TRAIL resistance during TRAIL therapy would shift the patient's treatment from beneficial to detrimental. In this study, we focused on the acquired TRAIL resistance mechanism and showed that the elevated expression of the antiapoptotic factor cellular FLICE-like inhibitory protein (c-FLIP) and the prosurvival Bcl-2 family member myeloid cell leukemia-1 (Mcl-1) underlie the main mechanism of this type of TRAIL resistance in lung cancer cells. Chronic exposure to TRAIL resulted in lung cancer cell resistance to TRAIL-induced cytotoxicity, and this resistance was associated with the increase in the cellular levels of c-FLIP(L) and Mcl-1(L). Overexpresssion of c-FLIP(L) suppressed recruitment of caspase-8 to the death-inducing signaling complex, whereas increased Mcl-1(L) expression blunted the mitochondrial apoptosis pathway. The elevation of c-FLIP(L) and Mcl-1(L) expression was due to Akt-mediated stabilization of these proteins in TRAIL-resistant cells. Importantly, suppressing c-FLIP(L) and Mcl-1(L) expression by RNA interference collectively alleviated acquired TRAIL resistance. Taken together, these results identify c-FLIP(L) and Mcl-1(L) as the major determinants of acquired TRAIL resistance and could be molecular targets for improving the therapeutic value of TRAIL against lung cancer.

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