Apoptosis is a form of programmed cell death that results in the orderly and efficient removal of damaged cells, such as those resulting from DNA damage or during development. Apoptosis can be triggered by signals from within the cell, such as genotoxic stress, or by extrinsic signals, such as the binding of ligands to cell surface death receptors. Deregulation in apoptotic cell death machinery is an hallmark of cancer. Apoptosis alteration is responsible not only for tumor development and progression but also for tumor resistance to therapies. Most anticancer drugs currently used in clinical oncology exploit the intact apoptotic signaling pathways to trigger cancer cell death. Thus, defects in the death pathways may result in drug resistance so limiting the efficacy of therapies. Therefore, a better understanding of the apoptotic cell death signaling pathways may improve the efficacy of cancer therapy and bypass resistance. This review will highlight the role of the fundamental regulators of apoptosis and how their deregulation, including activation of anti-apoptotic factors (i.e., Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, etc) or inactivation of pro-apoptotic factors (i.e., p53 pathway) ends up in cancer cell resistance to therapies. In addition, therapeutic strategies aimed at modulating apoptotic activity are briefly discussed.
Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is increasingly recognized as a master regulator of fundamental cellular functions, whose deregulation may underlie neoplastic transformation and progression. Hence, mTOR has recently emerged as a promising target for therapeutic anticancer interventions in several human tumors, including breast cancer. Here, we investigated the antiangiogenic potential of temsirolimus (also known as CCI-779), a novel mTOR inhibitor currently in clinical development for the treatment of breast cancer and other solid tumors. Consistent with previous reports, sensitivity to temsirolimus-mediated growth inhibition varied widely among different breast cancer cell lines and was primarily due to inhibition of proliferation with little, if any, effect on apoptosis induction. In the HER-2 geneamplified breast cancer cell line BT474, temsirolimus inhibited vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) production in vitro under both normoxic and hypoxic conditions through inhibition of hypoxia-stimulated hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1A expression and transcriptional activation. Interestingly, these effects were also observed in the MDA-MB-231 cell line, independent of its inherent sensitivity to the growthinhibitory effects of temsirolimus. A central role for mTOR (and the critical regulator of cap-dependent protein translation, eIF4E) in the regulation of VEGF production by BT474 cells was further confirmed using a small interfering RNA approach to silence mTOR and eIF4E protein expression. In addition to its effect on HIF-1A-mediated VEGF production, temsirolimus also directly inhibited serum-and/or VEGFdriven endothelial cell proliferation and morphogenesis in vitro and vessel formation in a Matrigel assay in vivo. Overall, these results suggest that antiangiogenic effects may substantially contribute to the antitumor activity observed with temsirolimus in breast cancer. (Cancer Res 2006; 66(11): 5549-54)
ID4 (inhibitor of DNA binding 4) is a member of a family of proteins that function as dominant-negative regulators of basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors. Growing evidence links ID proteins to cell proliferation, differentiation and tumorigenesis. Here we identify ID4 as a transcriptional target of gain-of-function p53 mutants R175H, R273H and R280K. Depletion of mutant p53 protein severely impairs ID4 expression in proliferating tumor cells. The protein complex mutant p53-E2F1 assembles on specific regions of the ID4 promoter and positively controls ID4 expression. The ID4 protein binds to and stabilizes mRNAs encoding pro-angiogenic factors IL8 and GRO-alpha. This results in the increase of the angiogenic potential of cancer cells expressing mutant p53. These findings highlight the transcriptional axis mutant p53, E2F1 and ID4 as a still undefined molecular mechanism contributing to tumor neo-angiogenesis.
The aim of this paper was to study the molecular mechanisms by which bcl-2 increases hypoxia-induced vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression. We demonstrated that bcl-2 overexpression in M14 human melanoma cell line enhances hypoxia-induced VEGF mRNA stability and promoter activation. In particular, the half-life of the message was longer in bcl-2 transfectants (approximately 330 min) than in control cells (approximately 180 min). In addition, bcl-2 overexpression increased VEGF promoter activity through the hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) transcription factor. Increased HIF-1a protein expression and DNA binding activity were detected in bcl-2 overexpressing cells compared with control cells. An enhanced functional activity of secreted VEGF was found both in in vitro and in vivo angiogenic assays, and the use of VEGF specific antibodies validated the role of VEGF on bcl-2-induced angiogenesis. Taken together our results indicate that bcl-2 plays an important role in melanoma angiogenesis, and that VEGF mRNA stabilization and HIF-1-mediated transcriptional activity are two important control points in bcl-2/hypoxia-induced VEGF expression.
Recent evidences suggest that stearoyl-CoA-desaturase 1 (SCD1), the enzyme involved in monounsaturated fatty acids synthesis, has a role in several cancers. We previously demonstrated that SCD1 is important in lung cancer stem cells survival and propagation. In this article, we first show, using primary cell cultures from human lung adenocarcinoma, that the effectors of the Hippo pathway, Yes-associated protein (YAP) and transcriptional co-activator with PDZ-binding motif (TAZ), are required for the generation of lung cancer three-dimensional cultures and that SCD1 knock down and pharmacological inhibition both decrease expression, nuclear localization and transcriptional activity of YAP and TAZ. Regulation of YAP/TAZ by SCD1 is at least in part dependent upon β-catenin pathway activity, as YAP/TAZ downregulation induced by SCD1 blockade can be rescued by the addition of exogenous wnt3a ligand. In addition, SCD1 activation of nuclear YAP/TAZ requires inactivation of the β-catenin destruction complex. In line with the in vitro findings, immunohistochemistry analysis of lung adenocarcinoma samples showed that expression levels of SCD1 co-vary with those of β-catenin and YAP/TAZ. Mining available gene expression data sets allowed to observe that high co-expression levels of SCD1, β-catenin, YAP/TAZ and downstream targets have a strong negative prognostic value in lung adenocarcinoma. Finally, bioinformatics analyses directed to identify which gene combinations had synergistic effects on clinical outcome in lung cancer showed that poor survival is associated with high co-expression of SCD1, β-catenin and the YAP/TAZ downstream target birc5. In summary, our data demonstrate for the first time the involvement of SCD1 in the regulation of the Hippo pathway in lung cancer, and point to fatty acids metabolism as a key regulator of lung cancer stem cells.
Here, we investigated the role of telomerase on Bcl-2-dependent apoptosis. To this end, the 4625 Bcl-2/Bcl-x L bispecific antisense oligonucleotide and the HA14-1 Bcl-2 inhibitor were used. We found that apoptosis induced by 4625 oligonucleotide was associated with decreased Bcl-2 protein expression and telomerase activity, while HA14-1 triggered apoptosis without affecting both Bcl-2 and telomerase levels. Interestingly, HA14-1 treatment resulted in a profound change from predominantly nuclear to a predominantly cytoplasmic localization of hTERT. Downregulation of endogenous hTERT protein by RNA interference markedly increased apoptosis induced by both 4625 and HA14-1, while overexpression of wild-type hTERT blocked Bcl-2-dependent apoptosis in a p53-independent manner. Catalytically and biologically inactive hTERT mutants showed a similar behavior as the wild-type form, indicating that hTERT inhibited the 4625 and HA14-1-induced apoptosis regardless of telomerase activity and its ability to lengthening telomeres. Finally, hTERT overexpression abrogated 4625 and HA14-1-induced mitochondrial dysfunction and nuclear translocation of hTERT. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that hTERT is involved in mitochondrial apoptosis induced by targeted inhibition of Bcl-2.
Endothelin-1 (ET-1) is a powerful mitogenic peptide produced by different tumors. In ovarian carcinoma cells, ET-1 acts as an autocrine growth factor, selectively through ET A receptor (ET A R), which is predominantly expressed in tumor cells. The aim of this study was to examine whether ET-1 plays a role in the sensitivity of three ovarian carcinoma cell lines (OVCA 433, HEY, and SK-OV-3) to apoptosis induced by two different stimuli. Our results demonstrated that the addition of ET-1 markedly inhibited serum withdrawal and paclitaxel-induced apoptosis in a concentration-dependent manner, as demonstrated by Annexin-V assay, sub-G 1 peak in DNA content histograms, internucleosomal DNA fragmentation, and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP biotin nick-end labeling method. Pretreatment of the cells with an ET A R antagonist, BQ 123, reversed the ET-1-induced protective effect.Paclitaxel-induced apoptosis resulted in the phosphorylation of Bcl-2 that was suppressed by the addition of ET-1. Further analysis of the signaling pathway demonstrated that ET-1 stimulated Akt activation. The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3-K) inhibitor wortmannin blocked ET-1-induced Akt phosphorylation. Inhibition of ET-1-stimulated mitogen-activated protein kinase activity did not affect ET-1 protection from paclitaxelmediated apoptosis. Moreover, BQ 123 blocked the Akt-mediated pathway activated by ET-1, sensitizing ovarian carcinoma cells to paclitaxel treatment. These results establish a novel role for ET-1 in determining protection of ovarian carcinoma cells against paclitaxel-induced apoptosis through Bcl-2-dependent and PI3-K-mediated Akt pathways and suggest that ET-1 and ET A R could represent important targets for anticancer therapy.
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