Down-regulation of phospho-Akt is a major molecular determinant of bortezomib-induced apoptosis in hepatocellular carcinoma cells

Kuen-Feng Chen, Pei-Yen Yeh, Kun-Huei Yeh, Yen-Shen Lu, Shang-Yi Huang, Ann-Lii Cheng
Cancer Research 2008 August 15, 68 (16): 6698-707
Bortezomib, a proteasome inhibitor, has been clinically approved for the treatment of myeloma and lymphoma. Here, we report a differential effect of bortezomib on apoptosis in four hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell lines and identify the major molecular event that determines sensitivity. Although bortezomib inhibited proteasome activity to a similar extent in all HCC cell lines, it showed differential effects on their viability: Huh-7 (IC(50) 196 nmol/L), Sk-Hep1 (IC(50) 180 nmol/L), Hep3B (IC(50) 112 nmol/L), and resistant PLC5 (IC(50) >1,000 nmol/L). Bortezomib caused cell cycle arrest at G(2)-M phase in all HCC cells tested whereas apoptotic induction was found only in sensitive cells but not in PLC5 cells. No significant bortezomib-induced NF-kappaB changes were noted in Huh-7 and PLC5. Bortezomib down-regulated phospho-Akt (P-Akt) in a dose- and time-dependent manner in all sensitive HCC cells whereas no alterations of P-Akt were found in PLC5. Down-regulation of Akt1 by small interference RNA overcame the apoptotic resistance to bortezomib in PLC5 cells, but a constitutively activated Akt1 protected Huh-7 cells from bortezomib-induced apoptosis. Furthermore, bortezomib showed suppression of tumor growth with down-regulation of P-Akt in Huh-7 tumors but not in PLC5 tumors. Down-regulation of P-Akt represents a major molecular event of bortezomib-induced apoptosis in HCC cell lines and may be a biomarker for predicting clinical response to HCC treatment. Targeting Akt signaling overcomes drug resistance to bortezomib in HCC cells, which provides a new approach for the combinational therapy of HCC.

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