Re-expression of ARHI (DIRAS3) induces autophagy in breast cancer cells and enhances the inhibitory effect of paclitaxel

Chun-Fang Zou, Luoqi Jia, Hongyan Jin, Ming Yao, Naiqing Zhao, Jin Huan, Zhen Lu, Robert C Bast, Youji Feng, Yinhua Yu
BMC Cancer 2011, 11: 22

BACKGROUND: ARHI is a Ras-related imprinted gene that inhibits cancer cell growth and motility. ARHI is downregulated in the majority of breast cancers, and loss of its expression is associated with its progression from ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) to invasive disease. In ovarian cancer, re-expression of ARHI induces autophagy and leads to autophagic death in cell culture; however, ARHI re-expression enables ovarian cancer cells to remain dormant when they are grown in mice as xenografts. The purpose of this study is to examine whether ARHI induces autophagy in breast cancer cells and to evaluate the effects of ARHI gene re-expression in combination with paclitaxel.

METHODS: Re-expression of ARHI was achieved by transfection, by treatment with trichostatin A (TSA) or by a combination of TSA and 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (DAC) in breast cancer cell cultures and by liposomal delivery of ARHI in breast tumor xenografts.

RESULTS: ARHI re-expression induces autophagy in breast cancer cells, and ARHI is essential for the induction of autophagy. When ARHI was re-expressed in breast cancer cells treated with paclitaxel, the growth inhibitory effect of paclitaxel was enhanced in both the cell culture and the xenografts. Although paclitaxel alone did not induce autophagy in breast cancer cells, it enhanced ARHI-induced autophagy. Conversely, ARHI re-expression promoted paclitaxel-induced apoptosis and G2/M cell cycle arrest.

CONCLUSIONS: ARHI re-expression induces autophagic cell death in breast cancer cells and enhances the inhibitory effects of paclitaxel by promoting autophagy, apoptosis, and G2/M cell cycle arrest.

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