Knockdown of the Bcl-2 gene increases sensitivity to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors in the H1975 lung cancer cell line harboring T790M mutation

Man Zou, Shu Xia, Liang Zhuang, Na Han, Qian Chu, Tengfei Chao, Ping Peng, Yu Chen, Qi Gui, Shiying Yu
International Journal of Oncology 2013, 42 (6): 2094-102
Epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs) are being widely used as targeted therapy in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), but most cases acquire drug-resistance in 9 months. However, the mechanisms of resistance are still not fully understood. Since it has been demonstrated that EGFR-TKI-mediated repression of downstream signaling cascades and apoptosis induction is a key mechanism through which EGFR-TKIs exert their cytotoxic effects, we reasoned that activation of downstream signaling pathways and changes in the expression of apoptosis-related proteins contribute to the acquired resistance to EGFR-TKIs. We analyzed the protein levels of p-Akt, Bcl-2, Bax between gefitinib-sensitive and gefitinib-resistant lung cancer cell lines and evaluated whether targeting the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2 induces cell apoptosis and further sensitizes resistant H1975 cells to gefitinib. The data showed that p-Akt was activated and accompanied by substantial Bcl-2 in the H1975 lung cancer cell line, whereas no evidence was observed in HCC827 cells. Using small interfering RNA (siRNA) to silence Bcl-2 in H1975 cells led to significant downregulation of Bcl-2 protein expression, decreased cell viability in vitro and induced intrinsic apoptosis confirmed by flow cytometry and PARP cleavage. In Bcl-2 siRNA-transfected cells, adding gefitinib further reduced the number of viable cells, induced apoptosis to a greater extent compared to either treatment alone. These preclinical data suggested that downregulation of Bcl-2 by RNAi in the gefitinib-resistant H1975 lung cancer cell line with T790M mutation enhanced the effects of gefitinib and may offer a novel therapeutic strategy for the treatment of NSCLC.


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