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1.  MIR376A Is a Regulator of Starvation-Induced Autophagy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82556.
Autophagy is a vesicular trafficking process responsible for the degradation of long-lived, misfolded or abnormal proteins, as well as damaged or surplus organelles. Abnormalities of the autophagic activity may result in the accumulation of protein aggregates, organelle dysfunction, and autophagy disorders were associated with various diseases. Hence, mechanisms of autophagy regulation are under exploration.
Over-expression of hsa-miR-376a1 (shortly MIR376A) was performed to evaluate its effects on autophagy. Autophagy-related targets of the miRNA were predicted using Microcosm Targets and MIRanda bioinformatics tools and experimentally validated. Endogenous miRNA was blocked using antagomirs and the effects on target expression and autophagy were analyzed. Luciferase tests were performed to confirm that 3′ UTR sequences in target genes were functional. Differential expression of MIR376A and the related MIR376B was compared using TaqMan quantitative PCR.
Here, we demonstrated that, a microRNA (miRNA) from the DLK1/GTL2 gene cluster, MIR376A, played an important role in autophagy regulation. We showed that, amino acid and serum starvation-induced autophagy was blocked by MIR376A overexpression in MCF-7 and Huh7 cells. MIR376A shared the same seed sequence and had overlapping targets with MIR376B, and similarly blocked the expression of key autophagy proteins ATG4C and BECN1 (Beclin 1). Indeed, 3′ UTR sequences in the mRNA of these autophagy proteins were responsive to MIR376A in luciferase assays. Antagomir tests showed that, endogenous MIR376A was participating to the control of ATG4C and BECN1 transcript and protein levels. Moreover, blockage of endogenous MIR376A accelerated starvation-induced autophagic activity. Interestingly, MIR376A and MIR376B levels were increased with different kinetics in response to starvation stress and tissue-specific level differences were also observed, pointing out to an overlapping but miRNA-specific biological role.
Our findings underline the importance of miRNAs encoded by the DLK1/GTL2 gene cluster in stress-response control mechanisms, and introduce MIR376A as a new regulator of autophagy.
PMCID: PMC3864973  PMID: 24358205
2.  mir-30d regulates multiple genes in the autophagy pathway and impairs autophagy process in human cancer cells 
In human epithelial cancers, the microRNA (miRNA) mir-30d is amplified with high frequency and serves as a critical oncomir by regulating metastasis, apoptosis, proliferation, and differentiation. Autophagy, a degradation pathway for long-lived protein and organelles, regulates the survival and death of many cell types. Increasing evidence suggests that autophagy plays an important function in epithelial tumor initiation and progression. Using a combined bioinformatics approach, gene set enrichment analysis and miRNA target prediction, we found that mir-30d might regulate multiple genes in the autophagy pathway including BECN1, BNIP3L, ATG12, ATG5, ATG2. Our further functional experiments demonstrated that the expression of these core proteins in the autophagy pathway was directly suppressed by mir-30d in cancer cells. Finally, we showed that mir-30d regulated the autophagy process by inhibiting autophagosome formation and LC3B-I conversion to LC3B-II. Taken together, our results provide evidence that the oncomir mir-30d impairs the autophagy process by targeting multiple genes in the autophagy pathway. This result will contribute to understanding the molecular mechanism of mir-30d in tumorigenesis and developing novel cancer therapy strategy.
PMCID: PMC3578012  PMID: 23274497
mir-30d; autophagy; cancer; microRNA
3.  MIR181A regulates starvation- and rapamycin-induced autophagy through targeting of ATG5 
Autophagy  2013;9(3):374-385.
Macroautophagy (autophagy herein) is a cellular catabolic mechanism activated in response to stress conditions including starvation, hypoxia and misfolded protein accumulation. Abnormalities in autophagy were associated with pathologies including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Hence, elucidation of the signaling pathways controlling autophagy is of utmost importance. Recently we and others described microRNAs (miRNAs) as novel and potent modulators of the autophagic activity. Here, we describe MIR181A (hsa-miR-181a-1) as a new autophagy-regulating miRNA. We showed that overexpression of MIR181A resulted in the attenuation of starvation- and rapamycin-induced autophagy in MCF-7, Huh-7 and K562 cells. Moreover, antagomir-mediated inactivation of endogenous miRNA activity stimulated autophagy. We identified ATG5 as an MIR181A target. Indeed, ATG5 cellular levels were decreased in cells upon MIR181A overexpression and increased following the introduction of antagomirs. More importantly, overexpression of ATG5 from a miRNA-insensitive cDNA construct rescued autophagic activity in the presence of MIR181A. We also showed that the ATG5 3′ UTR contained functional MIR181A responsive sequences sensitive to point mutations. Therefore, MIR181A is a novel and important regulator of autophagy and ATG5 is a rate-limiting miRNA target in this effect.
PMCID: PMC3590257  PMID: 23322078
macroautophagy; mammalian autophagy regulation; microRNA; hsa-miR-181a; ATG5; starvation; rapamycin; MTOR
4.  Identifying and Validating a Combined mRNA and MicroRNA Signature in Response to Imatinib Treatment in a Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Cell Line 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115003.
Imatinib, a targeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor, is the gold standard for managing chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Despite its wide application, imatinib resistance occurs in 20–30% of individuals with CML. Multiple potential biomarkers have been identified to predict imatinib response; however, the majority of them remain externally uncorroborated. In this study, we set out to systematically identify gene/microRNA (miRNA) whose expression changes are related to imatinib response. Through a Gene Expression Omnibus search, we identified two genome-wide expression datasets that contain expression changes in response to imatinib treatment in a CML cell line (K562): one for mRNA and the other for miRNA. Significantly differentially expressed transcripts/miRNAs post imatinib treatment were identified from both datasets. Three additional filtering criteria were applied 1) miRbase/miRanda predictive algorithm; 2) opposite direction of imatinib effect for genes and miRNAs; and 3) literature support. These criteria narrowed our candidate gene-miRNA to a single pair: IL8 and miR-493-5p. Using PCR we confirmed the significant up-regulation and down-regulation of miR-493-5p and IL8 by imatinib treatment, respectively in K562 cells. In addition, IL8 expression was significantly down-regulated in K562 cells 24 hours after miR-493-5p mimic transfection (p = 0.002). Furthermore, we demonstrated significant cellular growth inhibition after IL8 inhibition through either gene silencing or by over-expression of miR-493-5p (p = 0.0005 and p = 0.001 respectively). The IL8 inhibition also further sensitized K562 cells to imatinib cytotoxicity (p<0.0001). Our study combined expression changes in transcriptome and miRNA after imatinib exposure to identify a potential gene-miRNA pair that is a critical target in imatinib response. Experimental validation supports the relationships between IL8 and miR-493-5p and between this gene-miRNA pair and imatinib sensitivity in a CML cell line. Our data suggests integrative analysis of multiple omic level data may provide new insight into biomarker discovery as well as mechanisms of imatinib resistance.
PMCID: PMC4266614  PMID: 25506832
5.  microRNA-17 regulates the expression of ATG7 and modulates the autophagy process, improving the sensitivity to temozolomide and low-dose ionizing radiation treatments in human glioblastoma cells 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2013;14(7):574-586.
ATG7 is a key autophagy-promoting gene that plays a critical role in the regulation of cell death and survival of various cell types. We report here that microRNAs (miRNAs), a class of endogenous 22–24 nucleotide noncoding RNA molecules able to affect stability and translation of mRNA, may represent a novel mechanism for regulating ATG7 expression and therefore autophagy. We demonstrated that ATG7 is a potential target for miR-17, and this miRNA could negatively regulate ATG7 expression, resulting in a modulation of the autophagic status in T98G glioblastoma cells. Treatment of these tumor cells with the miR-17 mimic decreased, and with the antagomir increased, the expression of ATG7 protein. Dual luciferase reporter assay confirmed that a specific miR-17 binding sequence in the 3′-UTR of ATG7 contributed to the modulation of the expression of the gene by miR-17. Interestingly, our results showed that anti-miR-17 administration activated autophagy through autophagosome formation, as resulted by LC3B and ATG7 protein expression increase, and by the analysis of GFP-LC3 positive autophagosome vesicles in living cells. Furthermore, the autophagy activation by anti-miR-17 resulted in a decrease of the threshold resistance at temozolomide doses in T98G cells, while miR-17 modulation in U373-MG glioblastoma cells resulted in a sensitization to low ionizing radiation doses. Our study of the role of miR-17 in regulating ATG7 expression and autophagy reveals a novel function for this miRNA sequence in a critical cellular event with significant impacts in cancer development, progression and treatment.
PMCID: PMC3742487  PMID: 23792642
miR-17; autophagy; glioblastoma
6.  Pristimerin induces apoptosis in imatinib-resistant chronic myelogenous leukemia cells harboring T315I mutation by blocking NF-κB signaling and depleting Bcr-Abl 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:112.
Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is characterized by the chimeric tyrosine kinase Bcr-Abl. Bcr-Abl-T315I is the notorious point mutation that causes resistance to imatinib and the second generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors, leading to poor prognosis. CML blasts have constitutive p65 (RelA NF-κB) transcriptional activity, and NF-κB may be a potential target for molecular therapies in CML that may also be effective against CML cells with Bcr-Abl-T315I.
In this report, we discovered that pristimerin, a quinonemethide triterpenoid isolated from Celastraceae and Hippocrateaceae, inhibited growth and induced apoptosis in CML cells, including the cells harboring Bcr-Abl-T315I mutation. Additionally, pristimerin inhibited the growth of imatinib-resistant Bcr-Abl-T315I xenografts in nude mice. Pristimerin blocked the TNFα-induced IκBα phosphorylation, translocation of p65, and expression of NF-κB-regulated genes. Pristimerin inhibited two steps in NF-κB signaling: TAK1→IKK and IKK→IκBα. Pristimerin potently inhibited two pairs of CML cell lines (KBM5 versus KBM5-T315I, 32D-Bcr-Abl versus 32D-Bcr-Abl-T315I) and primary cells from a CML patient with acquired resistance to imatinib. The mRNA and protein levels of Bcr-Abl in imatinib-sensitive (KBM5) or imatinib-resistant (KBM5-T315I) CML cells were reduced after pristimerin treatment. Further, inactivation of Bcr-Abl by imatinib pretreatment did not abrogate the TNFα-induced NF-κB activation while silencing p65 by siRNA did not affect the levels of Bcr-Abl, both results together indicating that NF-κB inactivation and Bcr-Abl inhibition may be parallel independent pathways.
To our knowledge, this is the first report to show that pristimerin is effective in vitro and in vivo against CML cells, including those with the T315I mutation. The mechanisms may involve inhibition of NF-κB and Bcr-Abl. We concluded that pristimerin could be a lead compound for further drug development to overcome imatinib resistance in CML patients.
PMCID: PMC2893099  PMID: 20482842
7.  Expression patterns of microRNAs associated with CML phases and their disease related targets 
Molecular Cancer  2011;10:41.
MicroRNAs are important regulators of transcription in hematopoiesis. Their expression deregulations were described in association with pathogenesis of some hematological malignancies. This study provides integrated microRNA expression profiling at different phases of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) with the aim to identify microRNAs associated with CML pathogenesis. The functions of in silico filtered targets are in this report annotated and discussed in relation to CML pathogenesis.
Using microarrays we identified differential expression profiles of 49 miRNAs in CML patients at diagnosis, in hematological relapse, therapy failure, blast crisis and major molecular response. The expression deregulation of miR-150, miR-20a, miR-17, miR-19a, miR-103, miR-144, miR-155, miR-181a, miR-221 and miR-222 in CML was confirmed by real-time quantitative PCR. In silico analyses identified targeted genes of these miRNAs encoding proteins that are involved in cell cycle and growth regulation as well as several key signaling pathways such as of mitogen activated kinase-like protein (MAPK), epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR, ERBB), transforming growth factor beta (TGFB1) and tumor protein p53 that are all related to CML. Decreased levels of miR-150 were detected in patients at diagnosis, in blast crisis and 67% of hematological relapses and showed significant negative correlation with miR-150 proved target MYB and with BCR-ABL transcript level.
This study uncovers microRNAs that are potentially involved in CML and the annotated functions of in silico filtered targets of selected miRNAs outline mechanisms whereby microRNAs may be involved in CML pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3102634  PMID: 21501493
8.  Targeting autophagy potentiates tyrosine kinase inhibitor–induced cell death in Philadelphia chromosome–positive cells, including primary CML stem cells 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2009;119(5):1109-1123.
Imatinib mesylate (IM), a potent inhibitor of the BCR/ABL tyrosine kinase, has become standard first-line therapy for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), but the frequency of resistance increases in advancing stages of disease. Elimination of BCR/ABL-dependent intracellular signals triggers apoptosis, but it is unclear whether this activates additional cell survival and/or death pathways. We have shown here that IM induces autophagy in CML blast crisis cell lines, CML primary cells, and p210BCR/ABL-expressing myeloid precursor cells. IM-induced autophagy did not involve c-Abl or Bcl-2 activity but was associated with ER stress and was suppressed by depletion of intracellular Ca2+, suggesting it is mechanistically nonoverlapping with IM-induced apoptosis. We further demonstrated that suppression of autophagy using either pharmacological inhibitors or RNA interference of essential autophagy genes enhanced cell death induced by IM in cell lines and primary CML cells. Critically, the combination of a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI), i.e., IM, nilotinib, or dasatinib, with inhibitors of autophagy resulted in near complete elimination of phenotypically and functionally defined CML stem cells. Together, these findings suggest that autophagy inhibitors may enhance the therapeutic effects of TKIs in the treatment of CML.
PMCID: PMC2673867  PMID: 19363292
9.  Attenuation of TNFSF10/TRAIL-induced apoptosis by an autophagic survival pathway involving TRAF2- and RIPK1/RIP1-mediated MAPK8/JNK activation 
Autophagy  2012;8(12):1811-1821.
Although it is known that tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TNFSF10/TRAIL) induces autophagy, the mechanism by which autophagy is activated by TNFSF10 is still elusive. In this report, we show evidence that TRAF2- and RIPK1-mediated MAPK8/JNK activation is required for TNFSF10-induced cytoprotective autophagy. TNFSF10 activated autophagy rapidly in cancer cell lines derived from lung, bladder and prostate tumors. Blocking autophagy with either pharmacological inhibitors or siRNAs targeting the key autophagy factors BECN1/Beclin 1 or ATG7 effectively increased TNFSF10-induced apoptotic cytotoxicity, substantiating a cytoprotective role for TNFSF10-induced autophagy. Blocking MAPK8 but not NFκB effectively blocked autophagy, suggesting that MAPK8 is the main pathway for TNFSF10-induced autophagy. In addition, blocking MAPK8 effectively inhibited degradation of BCL2L1/Bcl-xL and reduction of the autophagy-suppressing BCL2L1–BECN1complex. Knockdown of TRAF2 or RIPK1 effectively suppressed TNFSF10-induced MAPK8 activation and autophagy. Furthermore, suppressing autophagy inhibited expression of antiapoptosis factors BIRC2/cIAP1, BIRC3/cIAP2, XIAP and CFLAR/c-FLIP and increased the formation of TNFSF10-induced death-inducing signaling complex (DISC). These results reveal a critical role for the MAPK8 activation pathway through TRAF2 and RIPK1 for TNFSF10-induced autophagy that blunts apoptosis in cancer cells. Thus, suppression of MAPK8-mediated autophagy could be utilized for sensitizing cancer cells to therapy with TNFSF10.
PMCID: PMC3541290  PMID: 23051914
autophagy; MAPK8/JNK; RIPK1/RIP1; TRAF2; TNFSF10/TRAIL; apoptosis
10.  MicroRNAs 130a/b are regulated by BCR-ABL and downregulate expression of CCN3 in CML 
Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) is a myeloproliferative disorder characterized by the expression of the oncoprotein, Bcr-Abl kinase. CCN3 normally functions as a negative growth regulator, but it is downregulated in CML, the mechanism of which is not known. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs, which negatively regulate protein translation by binding to the complimentary sequences of the 3′ UTR of messenger RNAs. Deregulated miRNA expression has emerged as a hallmark of cancer. In CML, BCR-ABL upregulates oncogenic miRNAs and downregulates tumour suppressor miRNAs favouring leukaemic transformation. We report here that the downregulation of CCN3 in CML is mediated by BCR-ABL dependent miRNAs. Using the CML cell line K562, we profiled miRNAs, which are BCR-ABL dependent by transfecting K562 cells with anti-BCR-ABL siRNA. MiRNA expression levels were quantified using the Taqman Low Density miRNA array platform. From the miRNA target prediction databases we identified miRNAs that could potentially bind to CCN3 mRNA and reduce expression. Of these, miR-130a, miR-130b, miR-148a, miR-212 and miR-425-5p were significantly reduced on BCR-ABL knockdown, with both miR-130a and miR-130b decreasing the most within 24 h of siRNA treatment. Transfection of mature sequences of miR-130a and miR-130b individually into BCR-ABL negative HL60 cells resulted in a decrease of both CCN3 mRNA and protein. The reduction in CCN3 was greatest with overexpression of miR-130a whereas miR-130b overexpression resulted only in marginal repression of CCN3. This study shows that miRNAs modulate CCN3 expression. Deregulated miRNA expression initiated by BCR-ABL may be one mechanism of downregulating CCN3 whereby leukaemic cells evade negative growth regulation.
PMCID: PMC3145871  PMID: 21638198
BCR-ABL; CCN3; CML; micro RNA; miR-130a; miR-130b
11.  MiR-216a: a link between endothelial dysfunction and autophagy 
Cell Death & Disease  2014;5(1):e1029-.
Endothelial dysfunction and impaired autophagic activity have a crucial role in aging-related diseases such as cardiovascular dysfunction and atherosclerosis. We have identified miR-216a as a microRNA that is induced during endothelial aging and, according to the computational analysis, among its targets includes two autophagy-related genes, Beclin1 (BECN1) and ATG5. Therefore, we have evaluated the role of miR-216a as a molecular component involved in the loss of autophagic function during endothelial aging. The inverse correlation between miR-216a and autophagic genes was conserved during human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) aging and in vivo models of human atherosclerosis and heart failure. Luciferase experiments indicated BECN1, but not ATG5 as a direct target of miR-216a. HUVECs were transfected in order to modulate miR-216a expression and stimulated with 100 μg/ml oxidized low-density lipoprotein (ox-LDL) to induce a stress repairing autophagic process. We found that in young HUVECs, miR-216a overexpression repressed BECN1 and ATG5 expression and the ox-LDL induced autophagy, as evaluated by microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3B) analysis and cytofluorimetric assay. Moreover, miR-216a stimulated ox-LDL accumulation and monocyte adhesion in HUVECs. Conversely, inhibition of miR-216a in old HUVECs rescued the ability to induce a protective autophagy in response to ox-LDL stimulus. In conclusion, mir-216a controls ox-LDL induced autophagy in HUVECs by regulating intracellular levels of BECN1 and may have a relevant role in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disorders and atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC4040670  PMID: 24481443
atherosclerosis; autophagy; endothelial dysfunction; microRNAs
12.  Gambogic Acid Induces Apoptosis in Imatinib-Resistant Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Cells via Inducing Proteasome Inhibition and Caspase-Dependent Bcr-Abl Downregulation 
Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is characterized by the constitutive activation of Bcr-Abl tyrosine kinase. Bcr-Abl-T315I is the predominant mutation that causes resistance to imatinib, cytotoxic drugs, and the second-generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors. The emergence of imatinib resistance in patients with CML leads to searching for novel approaches to the treatment of CML. Gambogic acid, a small molecule derived from Chinese herb gamboges, has been approved for phase II clinical trial for cancer therapy by the Chinese Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In this study, we investigated the effect of gambogic acid on cell survival or apoptosis in CML cells bearing Bcr-Abl-T315I or wild-type Bcr-Abl.
Experimental Design
CML cell lines (KBM5, KBM5-T315I, and K562), primary cells from patients with CML with clinical resistance to imatinib, and normal monocytes from healthy volunteers were treated with gambogic acid, imatinib, or their combination, followed by measuring the effects on cell growth, apoptosis, and signal pathways. The in vivo antitumor activity of gambogic acid and its combination with imatinib was also assessed with nude xenografts.
Gambogic acid induced apoptosis and cell proliferation inhibition in CML cells and inhibited the growth of imatinib-resistant Bcr-Abl-T315I xenografts in nude mice. Our data suggest that GA-induced proteasome inhibition is required for caspase activation in both imatinib-resistant and -sensitive CML cells, and caspase activation is required for gambogic acid–induced Bcr-Abl downregulation and apoptotic cell death.
These findings suggest an alternative strategy to overcome imatinib resistance by enhancing Bcr-Abl downregulation with the medicinal compound gambogic acid, which may have great clinical significance in imatinib-resistant cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3938960  PMID: 24334603
13.  Association Between Imatinib-Resistant BCR-ABL Mutation-Negative Leukemia and Persistent Activation of LYN Kinase 
Imatinib is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that is used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). BCR-ABL mutations are associated with failure of imatinib treatment in many CML patients. LYN kinase regulates survival and responsiveness of CML cells to inhibition of BCR-ABL kinase, and differences in LYN regulation have been found between imatinib-sensitive and -resistant CML cell lines.
We evaluated cells from 12 imatinib-resistant CML patients with mutation-negative BCR-ABL and from six imatinib-sensitive patients who discontinued therapy because of imatinib intolerance. Phosphorylation of BCR-ABL and LYN was assessed in patient cells and cell lines by immunoblotting with activation state–specific antibodies, co-immunoprecipitation studies, and mass spectroscopy analysis of phosphopeptides. Cell viability, caspase activation, and apoptosis were also measured. Mutations were analyzed by sequencing. The effect of silencing LYN with short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) or reducing activation by treatment with tyrosine kinase inhibitors was evaluated in cell lines and patient cells.
Imatinib treatment suppressed LYN phosphorylation in cells from imatinib-sensitive CML patients and imatinib-sensitive cell lines. Imatinib treatment blocked BCR-ABL signaling but did not suppress LYN phosphorylation in cells from imatinib-resistant patients, and persistent activation of LYN kinase was not associated with mutations in LYN kinase or its carboxyl-terminal regulatory domains. Unique LYN phosphorylation sites (tyrosine-193 and tyrosine-459) and associated proteins (c-Cbl and p80) were identified in cells from imatinib-resistant patients. Reducing LYN expression (siRNA) or activation (dasatinib) was associated with loss of cell survival and cytogenetic or complete hematologic responses in imatinib-resistant disease.
LYN activation was independent of BCR-ABL in cells from imatinib-resistant patients. Thus, LYN kinase may be involved in imatinib resistance in CML patients with mutation-negative BCR-ABL and its direct inhibition is consistent with clinical responses in these patients.
PMCID: PMC2902818  PMID: 18577747
14.  Apoptosis and autophagy have opposite roles on imatinib-induced K562 leukemia cell senescence 
Cell Death & Disease  2012;3(8):e373-.
Imatinib, the anti-Abl tyrosine kinase inhibitor used as first-line therapy in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), eliminates CML cells mainly by apoptosis and induces autophagy. Analysis of imatinib-treated K562 cells reveals a cell population with cell cycle arrest, p27 increase and senescence-associated beta galactosidase (SA-β-Gal) staining. Preventing apoptosis by caspase inhibition decreases annexin V-positive cells, caspase-3 cleavage and increases the SA-β-Gal-positive cell population. In addition, a concomitant increase of the cell cycle inhibitors p21 and p27 is detected emphasizing the senescent phenotype. Inhibition of apoptosis by targeting Bim expression or overexpression of Bcl2 potentiates senescence. The inhibition of autophagy by silencing the expression of the proteins ATG7 or Beclin-1 prevents the increase of SA-β-Gal staining in response to imatinib plus Z-Vad. In contrast, in apoptotic-deficient cells (Bim expression or overexpression of Bcl2), the inhibition of autophagy did not significantly modify the SA-β-Gal-positive cell population. Surprisingly, targeting autophagy by inhibiting ATG5 is accompanied by a strong SA-β-Gal staining, suggesting a specific inhibitory role on senescence. These results demonstrate that in addition to apoptosis and autophagy, imatinib induced senescence in K562 CML cells. Moreover, apoptosis is limiting the senescent response to imatinib, whereas autophagy seems to have an opposite role.
PMCID: PMC3434662  PMID: 22898871
chronic myeloid leukemia; autophagy; senescence; BCR-ABL; tyrosine kinase inhibitors
15.  Regulation of autophagy by a beclin 1-targeted microRNA, miR-30a, in cancer cells 
Autophagy  2009;5(6):816-823.
beclin 1, the mammalian homologue of the yeast Atg6, is a key autophagy-promoting gene that plays a critical role in the regulation of cell death and survival of various types of cells. However, recent studies have observed that the expression of beclin 1 is altered in certain diseases including cancers. The causes underlying the aberrant expression of beclin 1 remain largely unknown. We report here that microRNAs (miRNAs), a class of endogenous, 22–24 nucleotide noncoding RNA molecules able to affect stability and translation of mRNA, may represent a previously unrecognized mechanism for regulating beclin 1 expression and autophagy. We demonstrated that beclin 1 is a potential target for miRNA miR-30a, and this miRNA could negatively regulate beclin 1 expression resulting in decreased autophagic activity. Treatment of tumor cells with the miR-30a mimic decreased, and with the antagomir increased, the expression of beclin 1 mRNA and protein. Dual luciferase reporter assay confirmed that the miR-30a binding sequences in the 3′-UTR of beclin 1 contribute to the modulation of beclin 1 expression by miR-30a. Furthermore, inhibition of beclin 1 expression by the miR-30a mimic blunted activation of autophagy induced by rapamycin. Our study of the role of miR-30a in regulating beclin 1 expression and autophagy reveals a novel function for miRNA in a critical cellular event with significant impacts in cancer development, progression and treatment, and in other diseases.
PMCID: PMC3669137  PMID: 19535919
beclin 1; autophagy; microRNA; miR-30a; gene expression
16.  Downregulation of Mir-31, Mir-155, and Mir-564 in Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35501.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short non-coding regulatory RNAs that control gene expression and play an important role in cancer development and progression. However, little is known about the role of miRNAs in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Our objective is to decipher a miRNA expression signature associated with CML and to determine potential target genes and signaling pathways affected by these signature miRNAs.
Using miRNA microarrays and miRNA real-time PCR we characterized the miRNAs expression profile of CML cell lines and patients in reference to non-CML cell lines and healthy blood. Of all miRNAs tested, miR-31, miR-155, and miR-564 were down-regulated in CML cells. Down-regulation of these miRNAs was dependent on BCR-ABL activity. We next analyzed predicted targets and affected pathways of the deregulated miRNAs. As expected, in K562 cells, the expression of several of these targets was inverted to that of the miRNA putatively regulating them. Reassuringly, the analysis identified CML as the main disease associated with these miRNAs. MAPK, ErbB, mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) were the main molecular pathways related with these expression patterns. Utilizing Venn diagrams we found appreciable overlap between the CML-related miRNAs and the signaling pathways-related miRNAs.
The miRNAs identified in this study might offer a pivotal role in CML. Nevertheless, while these data point to a central disease, the precise molecular pathway/s targeted by these miRNAs is variable implying a high level of complexity of miRNA target selection and regulation. These deregulated miRNAs highlight new candidate gene targets allowing for a better understanding of the molecular mechanism underlying the development of CML, and propose possible new avenues for therapeutic treatment.
PMCID: PMC3325224  PMID: 22511990
17.  MicroRNA-155 Promotes Autophagy to Eliminate Intracellular Mycobacteria by Targeting Rheb 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(10):e1003697.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a hard-to-eradicate intracellular pathogen that infects one-third of the global population. It can live within macrophages owning to its ability to arrest phagolysosome biogenesis. Autophagy has recently been identified as an effective way to control the intracellular mycobacteria by enhancing phagosome maturation. In the present study, we demonstrate a novel role of miR-155 in regulating the autophagy-mediated anti-mycobacterial response. Both in vivo and in vitro studies showed that miR-155 expression was significantly enhanced after mycobacterial infection. Forced expression of miR-155 accelerated the autophagic response in macrophages, thus promoting the maturation of mycobacterial phagosomes and decreasing the survival rate of intracellular mycobacteria, while transfection with miR-155 inhibitor increased mycobacterial survival. However, macrophage-mediated mycobacterial phagocytosis was not affected after miR-155 overexpression or inhibition. Furthermore, blocking autophagy with specific inhibitor 3-methyladenine or silencing of autophagy related gene 7 (Atg7) reduced the ability of miR-155 to promote autophagy and mycobacterial elimination. More importantly, our study demonstrated that miR-155 bound to the 3′-untranslated region of Ras homologue enriched in brain (Rheb), a negative regulator of autophagy, accelerated the process of autophagy and sequential killing of intracellular mycobacteria by suppressing Rheb expression. Our results reveal a novel role of miR-155 in regulating autophagy-mediated mycobacterial elimination by targeting Rheb, and provide potential targets for clinical treatment.
Author Summary
microRNA-155 (miR-155) plays an essential role in regulating the host immune response by post-transcriptionally repressing the expression of target genes. However, little is known regarding its activity in modulating autophagy, an important host defense mechanism against intracellular bacterial infection. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a hard-to-eradicate intracellular pathogen that infects approximately one-third of the global population, and causes 1.5 million deaths annually. The present study explores a novel role of miR-155 in the host response against mycobacterial infection. Our data demonstrates that mycobacterial infection triggers the expression of miR-155, and the induction of miR-155 in turn activates autophagy by targeting Rheb, a negative regulator of autophagy. miR-155-promoted autophagy accelerates the maturation of the mycobacterial phagosome, thus decreasing the survival of intracellular mycobacteria in macrophages. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the host defense mechanisms against mycobacterial infection, providing useful information for development of potential therapeutic interventions against tuberculosis.
PMCID: PMC3795043  PMID: 24130493
18.  miR-17-5p Downregulation Contributes to Paclitaxel Resistance of Lung Cancer Cells through Altering Beclin1 Expression 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95716.
Non- small- cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is one of the most leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Paclitaxel based combination therapies have long been used as a standard treatment in aggressive NSCLCs. But paclitaxel resistance has emerged as a major clinical problem in combating non-small-cell lung cancer and autophagy is one of the important mechanisms involved in this phenomenon. In this study, we used microRNA (miRNA) arrays to screen differentially expressed miRNAs between paclitaxel sensitive lung cancer cells A549 and its paclitaxel-resistant cell variant (A549-T24). We identified miR-17-5p was one of most significantly downregulated miRNAs in paclitaxel-resistant lung cancer cells compared to paclitaxel sensitive parental cells. We found that overexpression of miR-17-5p sensitized paclitaxel resistant lung cancer cells to paclitaxel induced apoptotic cell death. Moreover, in this report we demonstrated that miR-17-5p directly binds to the 3′-UTR of beclin 1 gene, one of the most important autophagy modulator. Overexpression of miR-17-5p into paclitaxel resistant lung cancer cells reduced beclin1 expression and a concordant decease in cellular autophagy. We also observed similar results in another paclitaxel resistant lung adenosquamous carcinoma cells (H596-TxR). Our results indicated that paclitaxel resistance of lung cancer is associated with downregulation of miR-17-5p expression which might cause upregulation of BECN1 expression.
PMCID: PMC3995800  PMID: 24755562
19.  Autophagy is Essential to Suppress Cell Stress and to Allow BCR-Abl-Mediated Leukemogenesis 
Oncogene  2010;30(16):1855-1867.
Hematopoietic cells normally require cell extrinsic signals to maintain metabolism and survival. In contrast, cancer cells can express constitutively active oncogenic kinases such as BCR-Abl that promote these processes independent of extrinsic growth factors. When cells receive insufficient growth signals or when oncogenic kinases are inhibited, glucose metabolism decreases and the self-digestive process of autophagy is elevated to degrade bulk cytoplasm and organelles. While autophagy has been proposed to provide a cell-intrinsic nutrient supply for mitochondrial oxidative metabolism and to maintain cellular homeostasis through degradation of damaged organelles or protein aggregates, its acute role in growth factor deprivation or inhibition of oncogenic kinases remains poorly understood. We therefore developed a growth factor-dependent hematopoietic cell culture model in which autophagy can be acutely disrupted through conditional Cre-mediated excision of the autophagy-essential gene Atg3. Treated cells rapidly lost their ability to perform autophagy and underwent cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. While Atg3 was essential for optimal upregulation of mitochondrial oxidative pathways in growth factor withdrawal, this metabolic contribution of autophagy did not appear critical for cell survival, as provision of exogenous pyruvate or lipids could not completely rescue Atg3-deficiency. Instead, autophagy suppressed a stress response that otherwise led to p53 phosphorylation and upregulation of p21 and the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family protein Puma. Importantly, BCR-Abl-expressing cells had low basal levels of autophagy but were highly dependent on this process, and rapidly underwent apoptosis upon disruption of autophagy through Atg3 deletion or treatment with chemical autophagy inhibitors. This dependence on autophagy extended in vivo, as Atg3 deletion also prevented BCR-Abl-mediated leukemogenesis in a cell transfer model. Together these data demonstrate a critical role for autophagy to mitigate cell stress, and that cells expressing the oncogenic kinase BCR-Abl appear particularly dependent on autophagy for cell survival and leukemogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3081401  PMID: 21151168
Autophagy; BCR-Abl; Puma; apoptosis; metabolism; p53
20.  Biphasic regulation of autophagy by miR-96 in prostate cancer cells under hypoxia 
Oncotarget  2014;5(19):9169-9182.
Autophagy favors cell survival under hypoxia, and increasing evidence revealed that microRNAs regulate autophagy. We report here hypoxia increased the expression of miR-96 in prostate cancer cells, and miR-96 stimulated autophagy by suppressing MTOR. We found that inhibition of miR-96 abolished hypoxia-induced autophagy. Paradoxically, ectopic over-expression of miR-96 to a certain threshold, also abolished the hypoxia-induced autophagy. Further studies have shown that high levels of miR-96 inhibited autophagy through suppressing ATG7, a key autophagy-associated gene. Importantly, the miR-96 expression level threshold was determined, and the effects of miR-96 on autophagy on either side of the threshold were opposite. These data demonstrate hypoxia-induced autophagy is at least partially regulated by miR-96; miR-96 can promote or inhibit autophagy by principally inhibiting MTOR or ATG7 depending on the expression levels of miR-96. Our observation might reveal a novel regulatory mode of autophagy by microRNAs under hypoxia.
PMCID: PMC4253426  PMID: 25333253
Autophagy; Hypoxia; microRNAs; Oncogene; Prostate Cancer
21.  Phospho-ΔNp63α-dependent regulation of autophagic signaling through transcription and micro-RNA modulation 
Cell Cycle  2012;11(6):1247-1259.
Cisplatin was shown to induce the ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM)-dependent phosphorylation of tumor protein p63 isoform, (ΔNp63α), leading to a transcriptional regulation of specific genes implicated in the control of cell death of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cells. We previously observed that the cisplatin-induced phosphorylated (p)-ΔNp63α transcriptionally regulates the expression of specific microRNAs (miRNAs) in SCC cells. We found here that cisplatin exposure of SCC cells led to modulation of the members of the autophagic pathway, such as Atg1/Ulk1, Atg3, Atg4A, Atg5, Atg6/Becn1, Atg7, Atg9A and Atg10, by a direct p-ΔNp63α-dependent transcriptional regulation. We further found that specific miRNAs (miR-181a, miR-519a, miR-374a and miR-630), which are critical downstream targets of the p-ΔNp63α, modulated the protein levels of ATG5, ATG6/BECN1, ATG10, ATG12, ATG16L1 and UVRAG, adding another level of expression control for autophagic pathways in SCC cells upon cisplatin exposure. Our data support the notion that the cisplatin-induced p-ΔNp63α could regulate key pathways implicated in response of cancer cells to chemotherapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3335921  PMID: 22356768
p63; squamous cell carcinomas; autophagy; microRNA; transcription; cisplatin
22.  microRNA-122 as a regulator of mitochondrial metabolic gene network in hepatocellular carcinoma 
A moderate loss of miR-122 function correlates with up-regulation of seed-matched genes and down-regulation of mitochondrially localized genes in both human hepatocellular carcinoma and in normal mice treated with anti-miR-122 antagomir.Putative direct targets up-regulated with loss of miR-122 and secondary targets down-regulated with loss of miR-122 are conserved between human beings and mice and are rapidly regulated in vitro in response to miR-122 over- and under-expression.Loss of miR-122 secondary target expression in either tumorous or adjacent non-tumorous tissue predicts poor survival of heptatocellular carcinoma patients.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most aggressive human malignancies, common in Asia, Africa, and in areas with endemic infections of hepatitis-B or -C viruses (HBV or HCV) (But et al, 2008). Globally, the 5-year survival rate of HCC is <5% and about 600 000 HCC patients die each year. The high mortality associated with this disease is mainly attributed to the failure to diagnose HCC patients at an early stage and a lack of effective therapies for patients with advanced stage HCC. Understanding the relationships between phenotypic and molecular changes in HCC is, therefore, of paramount importance for the development of improved HCC diagnosis and treatment methods.
In this study, we examined mRNA and microRNA (miRNA)-expression profiles of tumor and adjacent non-tumor liver tissue from HCC patients. The patient population was selected from a region of endemic HBV infection, and HBV infection appears to contribute to the etiology of HCC in these patients. A total of 96 HCC patients were included in the study, of which about 88% tested positive for HBV antigen; patients testing positive for HCV antigen were excluded. Among the 220 miRNAs profiled, miR-122 was the most highly expressed miRNA in liver, and its expression was decreased almost two-fold in HCC tissue relative to adjacent non-tumor tissue, confirming earlier observations (Lagos-Quintana et al, 2002; Kutay et al, 2006; Budhu et al, 2008).
Over 1000 transcripts were correlated and over 1000 transcripts were anti-correlated with miR-122 expression. Consistent with the idea that transcripts anti-correlated with miR-122 are potential miR-122 targets, the most highly anti-correlated transcripts were highly enriched for the presence of the miR-122 central seed hexamer, CACTCC, in the 3′UTR. Although the complete set of negatively correlated genes was enriched for cell-cycle genes, the subset of seed-matched genes had no significant KEGG Pathway annotation, suggesting that miR-122 is unlikely to directly regulate the cell cycle in these patients. In contrast, transcripts positively correlated with miR-122 were not enriched for 3′UTR seed matches to miR-122. Interestingly, these 1042 transcripts were enriched for genes coding for mitochondrially localized proteins and for metabolic functions.
To analyze the impact of loss of miR-122 in vivo, silencing of miR-122 was performed by antisense inhibition (anti-miR-122) in wild-type mice (Figure 3). As with the genes negatively correlated with miR-122 in HCC patients, no significant biological annotation was associated with the seed-matched genes up-regulated by anti-miR-122 in mouse livers. The most significantly enriched biological annotation for anti-miR-122 down-regulated genes, as for positively correlated genes in HCC, was mitochondrial localization; the down-regulated mitochondrial genes were enriched for metabolic functions. Putative direct and downstream targets with orthologs on both the human and mouse microarrays showed significant overlap for regulations in the same direction. These overlaps defined sets of putative miR-122 primary and secondary targets. The results were further extended in the analysis of a separate dataset from 180 HCC, 40 cirrhotic, and 6 normal liver tissue samples (Figure 4), showing anti-correlation of proposed primary and secondary targets in non-healthy tissues.
To validate the direct correlation between miR-122 and some of the primary and secondary targets, we determined the expression of putative targets after transfection of miR-122 mimetic into PLC/PRF/5 HCC cells, including the putative direct targets SMARCD1 and MAP3K3 (MEKK3), a target described in the literature, CAT-1 (SLC7A1), and three putative secondary targets, PPARGC1A (PGC-1α) and succinate dehydrogenase subunits A and B. As expected, the putative direct targets showed reduced expression, whereas the putative secondary target genes showed increased expression in cells over-expressing miR-122 (Figure 4).
Functional classification of genes using the total ancestry method (Yu et al, 2007) identified PPARGC1A (PGC-1α) as the most connected secondary target. PPARGC1A has been proposed to function as a master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis (Ventura-Clapier et al, 2008), suggesting that loss of PPARGC1A expression may contribute to the loss of mitochondrial gene expression correlated with loss of miR-122 expression. To further validate the link of miR-122 and PGC-1α protein, we transfected PLC/PRF/5 cells with miR-122-expression vector, and observed an increase in PGC-1α protein levels. Importantly, transfection of both miR-122 mimetic and miR-122-expression vector significantly reduced the lactate content of PLC/PRF/5 cells, whereas anti-miR-122 treatment increased lactate production. Together, the data support the function of miR-122 in mitochondrial metabolic functions.
Patient survival was not directly associated with miR-122-expression levels. However, miR-122 secondary targets were expressed at significantly higher levels in both tumor and adjacent non-tumor tissues among survivors as compared with deceased patients, providing supporting evidence for the potential relevance of loss of miR-122 function in HCC patient morbidity and mortality.
Overall, our findings reveal potentially new biological functions for miR-122 in liver physiology. We observed decreased expression of miR-122, a liver-specific miRNA, in HBV-associated HCC, and loss of miR-122 seemed to correlate with the decrease of mitochondrion-related metabolic pathway gene expression in HCC and in non-tumor liver tissues, a result that is consistent with the outcome of treatment of mice with anti-miR-122 and is of prognostic significance for HCC patients. Further investigation will be conducted to dissect the regulatory function of miR-122 on mitochondrial metabolism in HCC and to test whether increasing miR-122 expression can improve mitochondrial function in liver and perhaps in liver tumor tissues. Moreover, these results support the idea that primary targets of a given miRNA may be distributed over a variety of functional categories while resulting in a coordinated secondary response, potentially through synergistic action (Linsley et al, 2007).
Tumorigenesis involves multistep genetic alterations. To elucidate the microRNA (miRNA)–gene interaction network in carcinogenesis, we examined their genome-wide expression profiles in 96 pairs of tumor/non-tumor tissues from hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Comprehensive analysis of the coordinate expression of miRNAs and mRNAs reveals that miR-122 is under-expressed in HCC and that increased expression of miR-122 seed-matched genes leads to a loss of mitochondrial metabolic function. Furthermore, the miR-122 secondary targets, which decrease in expression, are good prognostic markers for HCC. Transcriptome profiling data from additional 180 HCC and 40 liver cirrhotic patients in the same cohort were used to confirm the anti-correlation of miR-122 primary and secondary target gene sets. The HCC findings can be recapitulated in mouse liver by silencing miR-122 with antagomir treatment followed by gene-expression microarray analysis. In vitro miR-122 data further provided a direct link between induction of miR-122-controlled genes and impairment of mitochondrial metabolism. In conclusion, miR-122 regulates mitochondrial metabolism and its loss may be detrimental to sustaining critical liver function and contribute to morbidity and mortality of liver cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC2950084  PMID: 20739924
hepatocellular carcinoma; microarray; miR-122; mitochondrial; survival
23.  MIR106B and MIR93 Prevent Removal of Bacteria from Epithelial Cells by Disrupting ATG16L1-Mediated Autophagy 
Gastroenterology  2013;146(1):10.1053/j.gastro.2013.09.006.
Variants in genes that regulate autophagy have been associated with Crohn’s disease (CD). Defects in autophagy-mediated removal of pathogenic microbes could contribute to pathogenesis of CD. We investigated the role of the micro-RNAs (miRs) MIR106B and MIR93 in induction of autophagy and bacterial clearance in human cell lines, and the correlation between MIR106B and autophagy-related gene 16L1 (ATG16L1) expression in tissues from patients with CD.
We studied the ability of MIR106B and MIR93 to regulate ATG transcripts in human cancer cell lines (HCT116, SW480, HeLa, and U2OS) using luciferase report assays and bioinformatics analyses; MIR106B and MIR93 mimics and antagonists were transfected into cells to modify levels of miRs. Cells were infected with LF82, a CD-associated adherent-invasive strain of Escherichia coli, and monitored by confocal microscopy and for colony-forming units. Colon tissues from 41 healthy individuals (controls), 22 with active CD, 16 with inactive CD, and 7 with chronic inflammation were assessed for levels of MIR106B and ATG16L1 by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry.
Silencing Dicer 1, an essential processor of miRs, increased levels of ATG protein and formation of autophagosomes in cells, indicating that miRs regulate autophagy. Luciferase reporter assays indicated that MIR106B and MIR93 targeted ATG16L1 mRNA. MIR106B and MIR93 reduced levels of ATG16L1 and autophagy; these increased following expression of ectopic ATG16L1. In contrast, MIR106B and MIR93 antagonists increased formation of autophagosomes. Levels of MIR106B were increased in intestinal epithelia from patients with active CD, whereas levels of ATG16L1 were reduced, compared with controls. Levels of CMYC were also increased in intestinal epithelia of patients with active CD, compared with controls. These alterations could impair removal of CD-associated bacteria by autophagy.
In human cell lines, MIR106B and MIR93 reduce levels of ATG16L1 and autophagy, and prevent autophagy-dependent eradication of intracellular bacteria. This process also appears to be altered in colon tissues from patients with active CD.
PMCID: PMC3870037  PMID: 24036151
inflammatory bowel disease; microRNA; cell biology; infection
24.  Combined effects of PI3K and SRC kinase inhibitors with imatinib on intracellular calcium levels, autophagy, and apoptosis in CML-PBL cells 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(17):2839-2848.
Imatinib induces a complete cytogenetic regression in a large percentage of patients affected by chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) until mutations in the kinase domain of BCR-ABL appear. Alternative strategies for CML patients include the inhibition of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt-mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, which is constitutively activated in leukemia cells and seems important for the regulation of cell proliferation, viability, and autophagy. In this study, we verified the effect of imatinib mesylate (IM), alone or in association with LY294002 (LY) (a specific PI3K protein tyrosine kinase inhibitor) or 4-amino-5-(4-methylphenyl)-7-(t-butyl)pyrazolo[3,4-d]-pyrimidine (PP1) (a Src tyrosine kinase inhibitor), on viability, intracellular calcium mobilization, apoptosis, and autophagy, in order to verify possible mechanisms of interaction. Our data demonstrated that PP1 and LY interact synergistically with IM by inducing apoptosis and autophagy in Bcr/Abl+ leukemia cells and this mechanism is related to the stress of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Our findings suggest a reasonable relationship between apoptotic and autophagic activity of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) and the functionality of smooth ER Ca2+-ATPase and inositol triphosphate receptors, independently of intracellular calcium levels. Therapeutic strategies combining imatinib with PI3K and/or Src kinase inhibitors warrant further investigations in Bcr/Abl+ malignancies, particularly in the cases of imatinib mesylate-resistant disease.
PMCID: PMC3899197  PMID: 23966159
chronic myeloid leukemia; imatinib mesylate; PI3K inhibitor; Src kinase inhibitor; intracellular calcium [Ca2+]i; apoptosis; autophagy
25.  Lapatinib Induces Autophagy, Apoptosis and Megakaryocytic Differentiation in Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia K562 Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29014.
Lapatinib is an oral, small-molecule, dual tyrosine kinase inhibitor of epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR, or ErbB/Her) in solid tumors. Little is known about the effect of lapatinib on leukemia. Using human chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) K562 cells as an experimental model, we found that lapatinib simultaneously induced morphological changes resembling apoptosis, autophagy, and megakaryocytic differentiation. Lapatinib-induced apoptosis was accompanied by a decrease in mitochondrial transmembrane potential and was attenuated by the pancaspase inhibitor z-VAD-fmk, indicating a mitochondria-mediated and caspase-dependent pathway. Lapatinib-induced autophagic cell death was verified by LC3-II conversion, and upregulation of Beclin-1. Further, autophagy inhibitor 3-methyladenine as well as autophagy-related proteins Beclin-1 (ATG6), ATG7, and ATG5 shRNA knockdown rescued the cells from lapatinib-induced growth inhibition. A moderate number of lapatinib-treated K562 cells exhibited features of megakaryocytic differentiation. In summary, lapatinib inhibited viability and induced multiple cellular events including apoptosis, autophagic cell death, and megakaryocytic differentiation in human CML K562 cells. This distinct activity of lapatinib against CML cells suggests potential for lapatinib as a therapeutic agent for treatment of CML. Further validation of lapatinib activity in vivo is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3245247  PMID: 22216158

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