Sphingosine kinase-1 enhances resistance to apoptosis through activation of PI3K/Akt/NF-κB pathway in human non-small cell lung cancer

Libing Song, Huaping Xiong, Jun Li, Wenting Liao, Lan Wang, Jueheng Wu, Mengfeng Li
Clinical Cancer Research 2011 April 1, 17 (7): 1839-49

PURPOSE: The present study was to examine the effect of sphingosine kinase-1 (SPHK1) on chemotherapeutics-induced apoptosis in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells, which is relatively insensitive to chemotherapy, and its clinical significance in NSCLC progression.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: The correlation of SPHK1 expression and clinical features of NSCLC was analyzed in 218 paraffin-embedded archived NSCLC specimens by immunohistochemical analysis. The effect of SPHK1 on apoptosis induced by chemotherapeutics was examined both in vitro and in vivo, using Annexin V staining and TUNEL (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling) assays. Western blotting and luciferase analysis were performed to examine the impact of SPHK1 on the PI3K/Akt/NF-κB signaling.

RESULTS: The expression of SPHK1 was markedly increased in NSCLC and correlated with tumor progression and poor survival of patients with NSCLC. Upregulation of SPHK1 significantly inhibited doxorubicin- or docetaxel-induced apoptosis, associated with induction of antiapoptotic proteins Bcl-xl, c-IAP1, c-IAP2, and TRAF1. In contrast, silencing SPHK1 expression or inhibiting SPHK1 activity with specific inhibitor, SK1-I, significantly enhanced the sensitivity of NSCLC cells to apoptosis induced by chemotherapeutics both in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, we demonstrated that upregulation of SPHK1 activated the PI3K/Akt/NF-κB pathway, and that inhibition of the PI3K/Akt/NF-κB pathway abrogated the antiapoptotic effect of SPHK1 on NSCLC cells.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that SPHK1 is a potential pharmacologic target for the treatment of NSCLC and inhibition of SPHK1 expression or its kinase activity might represent a novel strategy to sensitize NSCLC to chemotherapy.

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