A novel BH3 mimetic efficiently induces apoptosis in melanoma cells through direct binding to anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins, including phosphorylated Mcl-1

Yubo Liu, Mingzhou Xie, Ting Song, Hongkun Sheng, Xiaoyan Yu, Zhichao Zhang
Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research 2015, 28 (2): 161-70
The Bcl-2 family modulates sensitivity to chemotherapy in many cancers, including melanoma, in which the RAS/BRAF/MEK/ERK pathway is constitutively activated. Mcl-1, a major anti-apoptotic protein in the Bcl-2 family, is extensively expressed in melanoma and contributes to melanoma's well-documented chemoresistance. Here, we provide the first evidence that Mcl-1 phosphorylation at T163 by ERK1/2 and JNK is associated with the resistance of melanoma cell lines to the existing BH3 mimetics gossypol, S1 and ABT-737, and a novel anti-apoptotic mechanism of phosphorylated Mcl-1 (pMcl-1) is revealed. pMcl-1 antagonized the known BH3 mimetics by sequestering pro-apoptotic proteins that were released from Bcl-2/Mcl-1. Furthermore, an anthraquinone BH3 mimetic, compound 6, was identified to be the first small molecule to that induces endogenous apoptosis in melanoma cells by directly binding Bcl-2, Mcl-1, and pMcl-1 and disrupting the heterodimers of these proteins. Although compound 6 induced upregulation of the pro-apoptotic protein Noxa, its apoptotic induction was independent of Noxa. These data reveal the promising therapeutic potential of targeting pMcl-1 to treat melanoma. Compound 6 is therefore a potent drug that targets pMcl-1 in melanoma.

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