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1.  Inhibition of MCL-1 enhances lapatinib toxicity and overcomes lapatinib resistance via BAK-dependent autophagy 
Cancer biology & therapy  2009;8(21):2084-2096.
Prior studies demonstrated that resistance to the ERBB1/2 inhibitor Lapatinib in HCT116 cells was mediated by increased MCL-1 expression. We examined whether inhibition of BCL-2 family function could restore Lapatinib toxicity in Lapatinib adapted tumor cells and enhance Lapatinib toxicity in naive cells. The BCL-2 family antagonist Obatoclax (GX15-070), that inhibits BCL-2/BCL-Xl/MCL-1 function, enhanced Lapatinib toxicity in parental HCT116 and Lapatinib adapted HCT116 cells. In breast cancer lines, regardless of elevated ERBB1/2 expression, GX15-070 enhanced Lapatinib toxicity within 3–12 h.The promotion of Lapatinib toxicity neither correlated with cleavage of caspase 3 nor was blocked by inhibition caspases; and was not associated with changes in the activities of ERK1/2, JNK1/2 or p38 MAPK but with reduced AKT, mTOR and S6K1 phosphorylation. The promotion of Lapatinib toxicity by GX15-070 correlated with increased cytosolic levels of apoptosis inducing factor (AIF) and expression of ATG8 (LC3), and the formation of large vesicles that intensely stained for a transfected LC3-GFP construct. Knockdown of the autophagy regulatory proteins ATG5 or Beclin1 suppressed the induction of LC3-GFP vesicularization and significantly reduced cell killing, whereas knock down of MCL-1 and BCL-Xl enhanced the induction of LC3-GFP vesicularization and significantly enhanced cell killing. Knockdown of Beclin1 and AIF abolished cell killing. Collectively, our data demonstrate that Obatoclax mediated inhibition of MCL-1 rapidly enhances Lapatinib toxicity in tumor cells via a toxic form of autophagy and via AIF release from the mitochondrion.
PMCID: PMC3887451  PMID: 19823038
lapatinib; obatoclax; autophagy; cell death; resistance
2.  Simultaneous exposure of transformed cells to SRC family inhibitors and CHK1 inhibitors causes cell death 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2011;12(3):215-228.
The present studies were initiated to determine in greater molecular detail the regulation of CHK1 inhibitor lethality in transfected and infected breast cancer cells and using genetic models of transformed fibrobalsts. Multiple MEK1/2 inhibitors (PD184352, AZD6244 [ARRY-142886]) interacted with multiple CHK1 inhibitors (UCN-01 [7-hydroxystaurosporine], AZD7762) to kill mammary carcinoma cells and transformed fibroblasts. In transformed cells, CHK1 inhibitor-induced activation of ERK1/2 was dependent upon activation of SRC family non-receptor tyrosine kinases as judged by use of multiple SRC kinase inhibitors (PP 2, Dasatinib; AZD0530), use of SRC/FYN/YES deleted transformed fibroblasts or by expression of dominant negative SRC. Cell killing by SRC family kinase inhibitors and CHK1 inhibitors was abolished in BAX/BAK−/− transformed fibroblasts and suppressed by overexpression of BCL-XL. Treatment of cells with BCL-2/BCL-XL antagonists promoted SRC inhibitor + CHK1 inhibitor-induced lethality in a BAX/BAK-dependent fashion. Treatment of cells with [SRC + CHK1] inhibitors radio-sensitized tumor cells. These findings argue that multiple inhibitors of the SRC-RAS-MEK pathway interact with multiple CHK1 inhibitors to kill transformed cells.
doi:10.4161/cbt.12.3.16218
PMCID: PMC3230482  PMID: 21642769
CHK1; SRC; apoptosis; breast cancer; kinase; therapeutics; intrinsic; caspase
3.  Conjugated Bile Acids Regulate Hepatocyte Glycogen Synthase Activity In Vitro and In Vivo via Gαi Signaling 
Molecular Pharmacology  2007;71(4):1122-1128.
The regulation of glycogen synthase activity by bile acids in primary hepatocytes and in the intact liver was investigated. Bile acids (deoxycholic acid, DCA; taurocholic acid, TCA) activated AKT and glycogen synthase (GS) in primary rat hepatocytes. Incubation with a phosphatidyl inositol-3 kinase inhibitor or expression of dominant-negative AKT in primary rat hepatocytes abolished activation of AKT and GS by DCA and TCA. TCA, but not DCA, activated Gαi proteins in primary rat hepatocytes. Treatment of cells with pertussis toxin or expression of dominant-negative Gαi blocked TCA-induced activation of AKT and of GS but did not alter AKT or GS activation caused by DCA. TCA caused activation of AKT and GS in intact rat liver. Expression of dominant-negative Gαi reduced TCA-induced activation of AKT and of GS in intact rat liver. Together, our findings demonstrate that bile acids are physiological regulators of glycogen synthase in rat liver and that conjugated bile acids use a Gαi-coupled G protein-coupled receptor to regulate GS activity in vitro and in vivo.
doi:10.1124/mol.106.032060
PMCID: PMC3292048  PMID: 17200418
4.  Vorinostat and sorafenib increase CD95 activation in gastrointestinal tumor cells through a Ca2+ - de novo ceramide - PP2A - ROS dependent signaling pathway 
Cancer research  2010;70(15):6313-6324.
The targeted therapeutics sorafenib and vorinostat interact in a synergistic fashion to kill carcinoma cells by activating CD95, and this drug combination is entering phase I evaluation. In this study we determined how CD95 is activated by treatment with this drug combination. Low doses of sorafenib and vorinostat but not the individual drugs rapidly increased ROS, Ca2+ and ceramide levels in GI tumor cells. The production of ROS was reduced in Rho zero cells. Quenching ROS blocked drug-induced CD95 surface localization and apoptosis. ROS generation, CD95 activation and cell killing was also blocked by quenching of induced Ca2+ levels or by inhibition of PP2A. Inhibition of acidic sphingomyelinase or de novo ceramide generation blocked the induction of ROS however combined inhibition of both acidic sphingomyelinase and de novo ceramide generation was required to block the induction of Ca2+. Quenching of ROS did not impact on drug-induced ceramide/dihydro-ceramide levels whereas quenching of Ca2+ reduced the ceramide increase. Sorafenib and vorinostat treatment radiosensitized liver and pancreatic cancer cells, an effect that was suppressed by quenching ROS or knock down of LASS6. Further, sorafenib and vorinostat treatment suppressed the growth of pancreatic tumors in vivo. Our findings demonstrate that induction of cytosolic Ca2+ by sorafenib and vorinostat is a primary event that elevates dihydroceramide levels, each essential steps in ROS generation that promotes CD95 activation.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-0999
PMCID: PMC2918282  PMID: 20631069
5.  17AAG and MEK1/2 inhibitors kill GI tumor cells via Ca2+-dependent suppression of GRP78/BiP and induction of ceramide and ROS 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2010;9(5):1378-1395.
The present studies determined in greater detail the molecular mechanisms upstream of the CD95 death receptor by which geldanamycin HSP90 inhibitors and MEK1/2 inhibitors interact to kill carcinoma cells. MEK1/2 inhibition enhanced 17AAG toxicity that was suppressed in cells deleted for mutant active RAS which were non-tumorigenic but was magnified in isogenic tumorigenic cells expressing H-RAS V12 or K-RAS D13. MEK1/2 inhibitor and 17AAG treatment increased intracellular Ca2+ levels and reduced GRP78/BiP expression in a Ca2+ -dependent manner. GRP78/BiP over-expression, however, also suppressed drug-induced intracellular Ca2+ levels. MEK1/2 inhibitor and 17AAG treatment increased ROS levels that were blocked by quenching Ca2+ or over-expression of GRP78/BiP. MEK1/2 inhibitor and 17AAG treatment activated CD95 and inhibition of ceramide synthesis; ROS or Ca2+ quenching blocked CD95 activation. In SW620 cells that are patient matched to SW480 cells, MEK1/2 inhibitor and 17AAG toxicity was significantly reduced that correlated with a lack of CD95 activation and lower expression of ceramide synthase 6 (LASS6). Over-expression of LASS6 in SW620 cells enhanced drug-induced CD95 activation and enhanced tumor cell killing. Inhibition of ceramide signaling abolished drug-induced ROS generation but not drug-induced cytosolic Ca2+ levels. Thus treatment of tumor cells with MEK1/2 inhibitor and 17AAG induces cytosolic Ca2+ and loss of GRP78/BiP function, leading to de novo ceramide synthesis pathway activation that plays a key role in ROS generation and CD95 activation.
doi:10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-09-1131
PMCID: PMC2868106  PMID: 20442308
Geldanamycin; 17AAG; MEK1/2 inhibitor; CD95; c-FLIP-s; GRP78/BiP; autophagy; cell death; ASMase; de novo
6.  PERK–Dependent Regulation of Ceramide Synthase 6 and Thioredoxin Play a Key Role in mda-7/IL-24–Induced Killing of Primary Human Glioblastoma Multiforme Cells 
Cancer research  2010;70(3):1120-1129.
Melanoma differentiation associated gene-7(mda-7) encodes IL-24, a cytokine that can selectively trigger apoptosis in transformed cells. Recombinant mda-7 adenovirus (Ad.mda-7) effectively kills glioma cells, offering a novel gene therapy strategy to address deadly brain tumors. In this study, we defined the proximal mechanisms by which Ad-mda-7 kills glioma cells. Key factors implicated included activation of the endoplasmic reticulum stress kinase protein kinase R–like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK), Ca++ elevation, ceramide generation and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. PERK inhibition blocked ceramide or dihydroceramide generation, which were critical for Ca++ induction and subsequent ROS formation. Activation of autophagy and cell death relied upon ROS formation, the inhibition of which ablated Ad.mda-7–killing activity. In contrast, inhibiting TRX induced by Ad.MDA-7 enhanced tumor cytotoxicity and improved animal survival in an orthotopic tumor model. Our findings indicate that mda-7/IL-24 induces an endoplasmic reticulum stress response that triggers production of ceramide, Ca2+, and ROS, which in turn promote glioma cell autophagy and cell death.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-4043
PMCID: PMC2890071  PMID: 20103619
7.  Inhibition of MCL-1 in breast cancer cells promotes cell death in vitro and in vivo 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2010;10(9):903-917.
The present studies have examined approaches to suppress MCL-1 function in breast cancer cells, as a means to promote tumor cell death. Treatment of breast cancer cells with CDK inhibitors (flavopiridol; roscovitine) enhanced the lethality of the ERBB1 inhibitor lapatinib in a synergistic fashion. CDK inhibitors interacted with lapatinib to reduce MCL-1 expression and overexpression of MCL-1 or knock down of BAX and BAK suppressed drug combination lethality. Lapatinib-mediated inhibition of ERK1/2 and to a lesser extent AKT facilitated CDK inhibitor-induced suppression of MCL-1 levels. Treatment of cells with the BH3 domain/MCL-1 inhibitor obatoclax enhanced the lethality of lapatinib in a synergistic fashion. Knock out of MCL-1 and BCL-XL enhanced lapatinib toxicity to a similar extent as obatoclax and suppressed the ability of obatoclax to promote lapatinib lethality. Pre-treatment of cells with lapatinib or with obatoclax enhanced basal levels of BAX and BAK activity and further enhanced drug combination toxicity. In vivo tumor growth data in xenograft and syngeneic model systems confirmed our in vitro findings. Treatment of cells with CDK inhibitors enhanced the lethality of obatoclax in a synergistic fashion. Overexpression of MCL-1 or knock down of BAX and BAK suppressed the toxic interaction between CDK inhibitors and obatoclax. Obatoclax and lapatinib treatment or obatoclax and CDK inhibitor treatment or lapatinib and CDK inhibitor treatment radiosensitized breast cancer cells. Lapatinib and obatoclax interacted to suppress mammary tumor growth in vivo. Collectively our data demonstrate that manipulation of MCL-1 protein expression by CDK inhibition or inhibition of MCL-1 sequestering function by Obatoclax renders breast cancer cells more susceptible to BAX/BAK-dependent mitochondrial dysfunction and tumor cell death.
doi:10.4161/cbt.10.9.13273
PMCID: PMC3040858  PMID: 20855960
MCL-1; Lapatinib; Obatoclax; Flavopiridol; Roscovitine; CDK inhibitor; RTK inhibitor; BCL-2 inhibitor; BAK
8.  TARGETING SPHINGOSINE KINASE 1 INHIBITS AKT SIGNALING, INDUCES APOPTOSIS, AND SUPPRESSES GROWTH OF HUMAN GLIOBLASTOMA CELLS AND XENOGRAFTS 
Cancer research  2009;69(17):6915-6923.
Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) is a potent sphingolipid mediator of diverse processes important for brain tumors, including cell growth, survival, migration, invasion, and angiogenesis. Sphingosine kinase 1 (SphK1), one of the two isoenzymes that produce S1P, is upregulated in glioblastoma and has been linked to poor prognosis in patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). In the present study, we found that a potent isotype-specific SphK1 inhibitor, SK1-I, suppressed growth of LN229 and U373 glioblastoma cell lines and non-established human GBM6 cells. SK1-I also enhanced GBM cell death and inhibited their migration and invasion. SK1-I rapidly reduced phosphorylation of Akt but had no significant effect on activation of ERK1/2, another important survival pathway for GBM. Inhibition of the concomitant activation of the JNK pathway induced by SK1-I attenuated death of GBM cells. Importantly, SK1-I markedly reduced tumor growth rate of glioblastoma xenografts, inducing apoptosis and reducing tumor vascularization and enhanced the survival of mice harboring LN229 intracranial tumors. Our results support the notion that SphK1 may be an important factor in GBM and suggest that an isozyme-specific inhibitor of SphK1 deserves consideration as a new therapeutic agent for this disease.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-0664
PMCID: PMC2752891  PMID: 19723667
sphingosine-1-phosphate; sphingosine kinase type 1; glioblastoma; Akt
9.  Mutations in the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase pathway predict for antitumor activity of the inhibitor PX-866 while oncogenic Ras is a dominant predictor for resistance 
Cancer research  2009;69(1):143-150.
The novel phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI-3-kinase) inhibitor PX-866 was tested against 13 experimental human tumor xenografts derived from cell lines of various tissue origins. Mutant PI-3-kinase (PIK3CA) and loss of PTEN activity were sufficient but not necessary as predictors of sensitivity to the antitumor activity of the PI-3-K inhibitor PX-866 in the presence of wild type Ras, while mutant oncogenic Ras was a dominant determinant of resistance, even in tumors with coexisting mutations in PIK3CA. The level of activation of PI-3-kinase signaling measured by tumor phospho-Ser473-Akt was insufficient to predict in vivo antitumor response to PX-866. Reverse phase protein array (RPPA) revealed that the Ras dependent down stream targets c-Myc and cyclin B were elevated in cell lines resistant to PX-866 in vivo. Studies using an H-Ras construct to constitutively and preferentially activate the three best defined downstream targets of Ras, namely Raf, RalGDS, and PI-3-kinase, showed that mutant Ras mediates resistance through its ability to utilize multiple pathways for tumorigenesis. The identification of Ras and downstream signaling pathways driving resistance to PI-3-kinase inhibition may serve as an important guide for patient selection as inhibitors enter clinical trials, and for the development of rational combinations with other molecularly targeted agents.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-07-6656
PMCID: PMC2613546  PMID: 19117997
PX-866; PI-3-K; Akt; Ras; response
10.  Vorinostat and sorafenib increase ER stress, autophagy and apoptosis via ceramide-dependent CD95 and PERK activation 
Cancer biology & therapy  2008;7(10):1648-1662.
We recently noted that low doses of sorafenib and vorinostat interact in a synergistic fashion to kill carcinoma cells by activating CD95, and this drug combination is entering phase I trials. The present studies mechanistically extended our initial observations. Low doses of sorafenib and vorinostat, but not the individual agents, caused an acidic sphingomyelinase and fumonisin B1-dependent increase in CD95 surface levels and CD95 association with caspase 8. Knock down of CD95 or FADD expression reduced sorafenib/vorinostat lethality. Signaling by CD95 caused PERK activation that was responsible for both promoting caspase 8 association with CD95 and for increased eIF2α phosphorylation; suppression of eIF2α function abolished drug combination lethality. Cell killing was paralleled by PERK- and eIF2α-dependent lowering of c-FLIP-s protein levels and over-expression of c-FLIP-s maintained cell viability. In a CD95-, FADD- and PERK-dependent fashion, sorafenib and vorinostat increased expression of ATG5 that was responsible for enhanced autophagy. Expression of PDGFRβ and FLT3 were essential for high dose single agent sorafenib treatment to promote autophagy. Suppression of PERK function reduced sorafenib and vorinostat lethality whereas suppression of ATG5 levels elevated sorafenib and vorinostat lethality. Over-expression of c-FLIP-s blocked apoptosis and enhanced drug-induced autophagy. Thus sorafenib and vorinostat promote ceramide-dependent CD95 activation followed by induction of multiple downstream survival regulatory signals: ceramide-CD95-PERK-FADD-pro-caspase 8 (death); ceramide-CD95-PERK-eIF2α -↓c-FLIP-s (death); ceramide-CD95-PERK-ATG5-autophagy (survival).
PMCID: PMC2674577  PMID: 18787411
Vorinostat; Sorafenib; CD95; c-FLIP-s; PDGFRβ; FLT3; autophagy; ceramide; cell death; ASMase
11.  MEK1/2 inhibitors and 17AAG synergize to kill human GI tumor cells in vitro via suppression of c-FLIP-s levels and activation of CD95 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2008;7(9):2633-2648.
Prior studies have noted that inhibitors of MEK1/2 enhanced geldanamycin lethality in malignant hematopoietic cells by promoting mitochondrial dysfunction. The present studies focused on defining the mechanism(s) by which these agents altered survival in carcinoma cells. MEK1/2 inhibitors (PD184352; AZD6244 (ARRY-142886)) interacted in a synergistic manner with geldanamycins (17AAG, 17DMAG) to kill hepatoma and pancreatic carcinoma cells that correlated with inactivation of ERK1/2 and AKT and with activation of p38 MAPK; p38 MAPK activation was ROS-dependent. Treatment of cells with MEK1/2 inhibitors and 17AAG reduced expression of c-FLIP-s that was mechanistically connected to loss of MEK1/2 and AKT function; inhibition of caspase 8 or over-expression of c-FLIP-s abolished cell killing by MEK1/2 inhibitors and 17AAG. Treatment of cells with MEK1/2 inhibitors and 17AAG caused a p38 MAPK-dependent plasma membrane clustering of CD95 without altering the levels or cleavage of FAS ligand. In parallel, treatment of cells with MEK1/2 inhibitors and 17AAG caused a p38 MAPK-dependent association of caspase 8 with CD95. Inhibition of p38 MAPK or knock down of BID, FADD or CD95 expression suppressed MEK1/2 inhibitor and 17AAG lethality. Similar correlative data were obtained using a xenograft flank tumor model system. Our data demonstrate that treatment of tumor cells with MEK1/2 inhibitors and 17AAG induces activation of the extrinsic pathway and that suppression of c-FLIP-s expression is crucial in transduction of the apoptotic signal from CD95 to promote cell death.
doi:10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-08-0400
PMCID: PMC2585522  PMID: 18790746
CD95; caspase; extrinsic; FLIP
12.  Lapatinib resistance in HCT116 cells is mediated by elevated MCL-1 expression, decreased BAK activation, and not by ERBB receptor mutation 
Molecular pharmacology  2008;74(3):807-822.
We have defined some of the mechanisms by which the kinase inhibitor Lapatinib kills HCT116 cells. Lapatinib inhibited radiation-induced activation of ERBB1/2, ERK1/2 and AKT, and radiosensitized HCT116 cells. Prolonged incubation of HCT116 cells with Lapatinib caused cell killing followed by outgrowth of Lapatinib adapted cells. Adapted cells were resistant to serum-starvation –induced cell killing and were cross resistant to multiple therapeutic drugs. Lapatinib was competent to inhibit basal and EGF-stimulated ERBB1 phosphorylation in adapted cells. Co-expression of dominant negative ERBB1 and dominant negative ERBB2 inhibited basal and EGF-stimulated ERBB1 and ERBB2 phosphorylation in parental cells. However in neither parental nor adapted cells did expression of dominant negative ERBB1 and dominant negative ERBB2 recapitulate the cell death promoting effects of Lapatinib. Adapted cells had increased expression of MCL-1, decreased expression of BAX, and decreased activation of BAX and BAK. Over-expression of BCL-XL protected parental cells from Lapatinib toxicity. Knock down of MCL-1 expression enhanced Lapatinib toxicity in adapted cells that was reverted by knock down of BAK expression. Inhibition of caspase function modestly reduced Lapatinib toxicity in parental cells whereas knock down of AIF expression suppressed Lapatinib toxicity. Thus in HCT116 cells Lapatinib adaptation can be mediated by altered expression of pro- and anti-apoptotic proteins that maintain mitochondrial function.
doi:10.1124/mol.108.047365
PMCID: PMC2574656  PMID: 18544666
Lapatinib; Ras; cell death
13.  Vorinostat and sorafenib synergistically kill tumor cells via FLIP suppression and CD95 activation 
Purpose and Design
Mechanism(s) by which the multi-kinase inhibitor sorafenib and the histone deacetylase inhibitor vorinostat interact to kill hepatic, renal and pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells have been defined.
Results
Low doses of sorafenib and vorinostat interacted in vitro in a synergistic fashion to kill hepatic, renal and pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells in multiple short term viability (24–96h) and in long term colony formation assays. Cell killing was suppressed by inhibition of cathepsin proteases and caspase 8, and to a lesser extent by inhibition of caspase 9. Twenty four hours after exposure, the activities of ERK1/2, AKT and NFκB were only modestly modulated by sorafenib and vorinostat treatment. However, 24h after exposure, sorafenib and vorinostat- treated cells exhibited markedly diminished expression of c-FLIP-s, full length BID, BCL-2, BCLXL, MCL-1, XIAP, increased expression of BIM, and increased activation of BAX, BAK and BAD. Expression of eIF2α S51A blocked sorafenib and vorinostat –induced suppression of c-FLIP-s levels and over-expression of c-FLIP-s abolished lethality. Sorafenib and vorinostat treatment increased surface levels of CD95 and CD95 association with caspase 8. Knock down of CD95 or FADD expression significantly reduced sorafenib / vorinostat -mediated lethality.
Conclusions
These data demonstrate that combined exposure of epithelial tumor cell types to sorafenib and vorinostat diminishes expression of multiple anti-apoptotic proteins, promotes activation of the CD95 extrinsic apoptotic and the lysosomal protease pathways, and that suppression of c-FLIP-s expression represents a critical event in transduction of the pro-apoptotic signals from CD95 to promote mitochondrial dysfunction and death.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-08-0469
PMCID: PMC2561272  PMID: 18765530
Vorinostat; Sorafenib; CD95; c-FLIP-s; caspase 8; cathepsin; cell death

Results 1-13 (13)