Sustained IRE1 and ATF6 signaling is important for survival of melanoma cells undergoing ER stress

Kwang Hong Tay, Qi Luan, Amanda Croft, Chen Chen Jiang, Lei Jin, Xu Dong Zhang, Hsin-Yi Tseng
Cellular Signalling 2014, 26 (2): 287-94
Apoptosis triggered by endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is associated with rapid attenuation of the IRE1α and ATF6 pathways but persistent activation of the PERK branch of the unfolded protein response (UPR) in cells. However, melanoma cells are largely resistant to ER stress-induced apoptosis, suggesting that the kinetics and durations of activation of the UPR pathways are deregulated in melanoma cells undergoing ER stress. We show here that the IRE1α and ATF6 pathways are sustained along with the PERK signaling in melanoma cells subjected to pharmacological ER stress, and that this is, at least in part, due to increased activation of the MEK/ERK pathway. In contrast to an initial increase followed by rapid reduction in activation of IRE1α and ATF6 signaling in control cells that were relatively sensitive to ER stress-induced apoptosis, activation of IRE1α and ATF6 by the pharmacological ER stress inducer tunicamycin (TM) or thapsigargin (TG) persisted in melanoma cells. On the other hand, the increase in PERK signaling lasted similarly in both types of cells. Sustained activation of IRE1α and ATF6 signaling played an important role in protecting melanoma cells from ER stress-induced apoptosis, as interruption of IRE1α or ATF6 rendered melanoma cells sensitive to apoptosis induced by TM or TG. Inhibition of MEK partially blocked IRE1α and ATF6 activation, suggesting that MEK/ERK signaling contributed to sustained activation of IRE1α and ATF6. Taken together, these results identify sustained activation of the IRE1α and ATF6 pathways of the UPR driven by the MEK/ERK pathway as an important protective mechanism against ER stress-induced apoptosis in melanoma cells.

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