The stress protein BAG3 stabilizes Mcl-1 protein and promotes survival of cancer cells and resistance to antagonist ABT-737

Mariana Boiani, Cristina Daniel, Xueyuan Liu, Michael D Hogarty, Lawrence J Marnett
Journal of Biological Chemistry 2013 March 8, 288 (10): 6980-90
Members of the Bcl-2 family of proteins are important inhibitors of apoptosis in human cancer and are targets for novel anticancer agents such as the Bcl-2 antagonists, ABT-263 (Navitoclax), and its analog ABT-737. Unlike Bcl-2, Mcl-1 is not antagonized by ABT-263 or ABT-737 and is considered to be a major factor in resistance. Also, Mcl-1 exhibits differential regulation when compared with other Bcl-2 family members and is a target for anticancer drug discovery. Here, we demonstrate that BAG3, an Hsp70 co-chaperone, protects Mcl-1 from proteasomal degradation, thereby promoting its antiapoptotic activity. Using neuroblastoma cell lines, with a defined Bcl-2 family dependence, we found that BAG3 expression correlated with Mcl-1 dependence and ABT-737 resistance. RNA silencing of BAG3 led to a marked reduction in Mcl-1 protein levels and overcame ABT-737 resistance in Mcl-1-dependent cells. In ABT-737-resistant cells, Mcl-1 co-immunoprecipitated with BAG3, and loss of Mcl-1 after BAG3 silencing was prevented by proteasome inhibition. BAG3 and Mcl-1 were co-expressed in a panel of diverse cancer cell lines resistant to ABT-737. Silencing BAG3 reduced Mcl-1 protein levels and overcame ABT-737 resistance in several of the cell lines, including triple-negative breast cancer (MDA-MB231) and androgen receptor-negative prostate cancer (PC3) cells. These studies identify BAG3-mediated Mcl-1 stabilization as a potential target for cancer drug discovery.

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