Bortezomib overcomes tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand resistance in hepatocellular carcinoma cells in part through the inhibition of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt pathway

Kuen-Feng Chen, Pei-Yen Yeh, Chiun Hsu, Chih-Hung Hsu, Yen-Shen Lu, Hsing-Pang Hsieh, Pei-Jer Chen, Ann-Lii Cheng
Journal of Biological Chemistry 2009 April 24, 284 (17): 11121-33
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common and aggressive human malignancies. Recombinant tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is a promising anti-tumor agent. However, many HCC cells show resistance to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. In this study, we showed that bortezomib, a proteasome inhibitor, overcame TRAIL resistance in HCC cells, including Huh-7, Hep3B, and Sk-Hep1. The combination of bortezomib and TRAIL restored the sensitivity of HCC cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Comparing the molecular change in HCC cells treated with these agents, we found that down-regulation of phospho-Akt (P-Akt) played a key role in mediating TRAIL sensitization of bortezomib. The first evidence was that bortezomib down-regulated P-Akt in a dose- and time-dependent manner in TRAIL-treated HCC cells. Second, LY294002, a PI3K inhibitor, also sensitized resistant HCC cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Third, knocking down Akt1 by small interference RNA also enhanced TRAIL-induced apoptosis in Huh-7 cells. Finally, ectopic expression of mutant Akt (constitutive active) in HCC cells abolished TRAIL sensitization effect of bortezomib. Moreover, okadaic acid, a protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) inhibitor, reversed down-regulation of P-Akt in bortezomib-treated cells, and PP2A knockdown by small interference RNA also reduced apoptosis induced by the combination of TRAIL and bortezomib, indicating that PP2A may be important in mediating the effect of bortezomib on TRAIL sensitization. Together, bortezomib overcame TRAIL resistance at clinically achievable concentrations in hepatocellular carcinoma cells, and this effect is mediated at least partly via inhibition of the PI3K/Akt pathway.

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