Accumulation of unfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) results in ER stress, which subsequently activates the unfolded protein response that induces a transcriptional program to alleviate the stress. Another cellular process that is activated during ER stress is autophagy, a mechanism of enclosing intracellular components in a double-membrane autophagosome, and then delivering it to the lysosome for degradation. Here, we discuss the role of autophagy in cellular response to ER stress, the signaling pathways linking ER stress to autophagy, and the possible implication of modulating autophagy in treatment of diseases such as cancer.
Endoplasmic reticulum stress; Autophagy; Apoptosis; Cell survival; Cell death
Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress induces both autophagy and apoptosis yet the molecular mechanisms and pathways underlying the regulation of these two cellular processes in cells undergoing ER stress remain less clear. We report here that eukaryotic elongation factor-2 kinase (EEF2K) is a critical controller of the ER stress-induced autophagy and apoptosis in tumor cells. DDIT4, a stress-induced protein, was required for transducing the signal for activation of EEF2K under ER stress. We further showed that phosphorylation of EEF2K at Ser398 was essential for induction of autophagy, while phosphorylation of the kinase at Ser366 and Ser78 exerted an inhibitory effect on autophagy. Suppression of the ER stress-activated autophagy via silencing of EEF2K aggravated ER stress and promoted apoptotic cell death in tumor cells. Moreover, inhibiting EEF2K by either RNAi or NH125, a small molecule inhibitor of the enzyme, rendered tumor cells more sensitive to curcumin and velcade, two anticancer agents that possess ER stress-inducing action. Our study indicated that the DDIT4-EEF2K pathway was essential for inducing autophagy and for determining the fate of tumor cells under ER stress, and suggested that inhibiting the EEF2K-mediated autophagy can deteriorate ER stress and lead to a greater apoptotic response, thereby potentiating the efficacy of the ER stress-inducing agents against cancer.
EEF2K; ER stress; autophagy; apoptosis; tumor cells
The early observations by Dr Otto Warburg revealed that fundamentally metabolic differences exist between malignant tumor cells and adjacent normal cells. Many studies have further reported the relationship between altered cellular metabolism and therapeutic outcomes. These observations suggest that targeting the peculiar metabolic pathways in cancer might be an effective strategy for cancer therapy. In recent years, investigations have accelerated into how altered cellular metabolism promotes tumor survival and growth. This review highlights the current concepts of altered metabolism in cancer and the molecular targets involved in glycolysis, mitochondria and glutamine metabolism and discusses future perspective of cellular metabolism-based cancer treatment.
cancer metabolism; cancer therapy; cell survival; cell death
Cellular senescence is defined as the physiological program of terminal growth arrest, which can be triggered by various endogenous or exogenous stress signals. Cellular senescence can be induced in response to oncogenic activation, acting as a barrier to tumorigenesis. Tumor cells can undergo senescence when exposed to chemotherapeutic agents. In addition to suppressing tumorigenesis, senescent cells remain metabolically active and may contribute to tumor formation and to therapy resistance. In the current review, we discuss the molecular regulation of cellular senescence, the potential implications of senescence in human cancer, and the possibility of exploiting cellular senescence as a therapeutic intervention in the treatment of cancer.
senescence; oncogenesis; cancer therapy; cell survival; cell death
Nucleus accumbens-1 (NAC1), a nuclear factor belonging to the BTB/POZ gene family, has emerging roles in cancer. We report here that NAC1 acts as a negative regulator of cellular senescence in transformed and non-transformed cells, and dysfunction of NAC1 induces senescence and inhibits its oncogenic potential. We show that NAC1 deficiency markedly activates senescence and inhibits proliferation in tumor cells treated with sub-lethal doses of γ-irradiation. In mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) from NAC1 knockout mice, following infection with a Ras virus, NAC1−/− cells undergo significantly more senescence and are either non- or less transformed in vitro and less tumorigenic in vivo when compared with NAC1+/+ cells. Furthermore, we show that the NAC1-caused senescence blunting is mediated by ΔNp63, which exerts its effect on senescence through p21, and that NAC1 activates transcription of ΔNp63 under stressful conditions. Our results not only reveal a previously unrecognized function of NAC1, the molecular pathway involved and its impact on pathogenesis of tumor initiation and development, but also identify a novel senescence regulator that may be exploited as a potential target for cancer prevention and treatment.
NAC1; senescence; ΔNp63; oncogene; tumorigenesis
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved lysosomal self-digestion process involved in degradation of long-lived proteins and damaged organelles. In recent years, increasing evidence indicates that autophagy is associated with a number of pathological processes, including cancer. In this review, we focus on the recent studies of the evolutionarily conserved autophagy-related genes (ATGs) that are implicated in autophagosome formation and the pathways involved. We discuss several key autophagic mediators (eg, Beclin-1, UVRAG, Bcl-2, Class III and I PI3K, mTOR, and p53) that play pivotal roles in autophagic signaling networks in cancer. We discuss the Janus roles of autophagy in cancer and highlighted their relationship to tumor suppression and tumor progression. We also present some examples of targeting ATGs and several protein kinases as anticancer strategy, and discuss some autophagy-modulating agents as antitumor agents. A better understanding of the relationship between autophagy and cancer would ultimately allow us to harness autophagic pathways as new targets for drug discovery in cancer therapeutics.
autophagy; cancer; autophagy-related gene (ATG); Beclin-1; Bcl-2; Class III and I PI3K; mTOR; p53
Autophagy, a cellular process of “self-eating” by which intracellular components are degraded within the lysosome, is an evolutionarily conserved response to various stresses. Autophagy is associated with numerous patho-physiological conditions, and dysregulation of autophagy contributes to the pathogenesis of a variety of human diseases including cancer. Depending on context, activation of autophagy may promote either cell survival or death, two major events that determine pathological process of many illnesses. Importantly, the activity of autophagy is often associated with apoptosis, another critical cellular process determining cellular fate. A better understanding of biology of autophagy and its implication in human health and disorder, as well as the relationship between autophagy and apoptosis, has the potential of facilitating the development of autophagy-based therapeutic interventions for human diseases such as cancer.
Autophagy; apoptosis; cancer; molecular regulation
Gefitinib, a small molecule inhibitor of the epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase, has been shown to induce autophagy as well as apoptosis in tumor cells. Yet, how to exploit autophagy and apoptosis to improve therapeutic efficacy of this drug against cancer remains to be explored. We reported here that MK-2206, a potent allosteric Akt inhibitor currently in Phase I trials in patients with solid tumors, could reinforce the cytocidal effect of gefitinib against glioma. We found that co-treatment with gefitinib and MK-2206 increased the cytotoxicity of this growth factor receptor inhibitor in the glioma cells, and the Compusyn synergism/antagonism analysis showed that MK-2206 acted synergistically with gefitinib. The benefit of the combinatorial treatment was also demonstrated in an intracranial glioma mouse model. In the presence of MK-2206, there was a significant increase in apoptosis in glioma cells treated with gefitinib. MK-2206 also augmented the autophagy-inducing effect of gefitinib, as evidenced by increased levels of the autophagy marker, LC3-II. Inhibition of autophagy by silencing of the key autophagy gene, beclin 1 or 3-MA, further increased the cytotoxicity of this combinatorial treatment, suggesting that autophagy induced by these agents plays a cytoprotective role. Notably, at 48 hours following the combinatorial treatment, the level of LC3-II began to decrease but Bim was significantly elevated, suggesting a switch from autophagy to apoptosis. Based on the synergistic effect of MK-2206 on gefitinib observed in this study, the combination of these two drugs may be utilized as a new therapeutic regimen for malignant glioma.
MK-2206; gefitinib; apoptosis; autophagy; glioblastoma
Our recent study revealed a new role of nucleus accumbens-1 (NAC1), a transcription factor belonging to the BTB/POZ gene family, in regulating autophagy. Moreover, we found that the high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1), a chromatin-associated nuclear protein acting as an extracellular damage associated molecular pattern molecule (DAMP), is the downstream executor of NAC1 in modulating autophagy. In response to stress such as therapeutic insults, NAC1 increases the expression, cytosolic translocation and release of HMGB1; elevated level of the cytoplasmic HMGB1 leads to activation of autophagy. The NAC1-HMGB1 partnership may represent a previously unrecognized pathway that regulates autophagy in response to various stresses such as chemotherapy.
Apoptosis; autophagy; cisplatin; HMGB1; NAC1
Elongation factor-2 kinase (eEF-2 kinase, also known as calmodulin-dependent protein kinase III), is a unique calcium/calmodulin-dependent enzyme that inhibits protein synthesis by phosphorylating and inactivating elongation factor-2 (eEF-2). We previously reported that expression/activity of eEF-2 kinase was up-regulated in several types of malignancies including Gliomas, and was associated with response of tumor cells to certain therapeutic stress. In the current study, we sought to determine whether eEF-2 kinase expression affected sensitivity of glioma cells to treatment with tumor the necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), a targeted therapy able to induce apoptosis in cancer cells but causes no toxicity in most normal cells. We found that inhibition of eEF-2 kinase by RNA interference (RNAi) or by a pharmacological inhibitor (NH125) enhanced TRAIL-induced apoptosis in the human glioma cells, as evidenced by an increase in apoptosis in the tumor cells treated with eEF-2 kinase siRNA or the eEF-2 kinase inhibitor. We further demonstrated that sensitization of tumor cells to TRAIL was accompanied by a down-regulation of the anti-apoptotic protein, Bcl-xL, and that overexpression of Bcl-xL could abrogate the sensitizing effect of inhibiting eEF-2 kinase on TRAIL. The results of this study may help devise a new therapeutic strategy for enhancing the efficacy of TRAIL against malignant glioma by targeting eEF-2 kinase.
eEF-2 kinase; TRAIL; Bcl-xl; apoptosis; glioblastoma
Nucleus accumbens-1 (NAC1), a nuclear factor belonging to the BTB/POZ gene family, is known to play important roles in proliferation and growth of tumor cells and in chemotherapy resistance. Yet, the mechanisms underlying how NAC1 contributes to drug resistance remain largely unclear. We reported here that autophagy was involved in NAC1-mediated resistance to cisplatin, a commonly used chemotherapeutic drug in the treatment of ovarian cancer. We found that treatment with cisplatin caused an activation of autophagy in ovarian cancer cell lines, A2780, OVCAR3, and SKOV3. We further demonstrated that knockdown of NAC1 by RNAi or inactivation of NAC1 by inducing the expression of a NAC1 deletion mutant that contains only the BTB/POZ domain significantly inhibited the cisplatin-induced autophagy, resulting in increased cisplatin cytotoxicity. Moreover, inhibition of autophagy and sensitization to cisplatin by NAC1 knockdown or inactivation were accompanied by induction of apoptosis. To confirm that the sensitizing effect of NAC1 inhibition on the cytotoxicity of cisplatin was attributed to suppression of autophagy, we assessed the effects of the autophagy inhibitors, 3-MA and chloroquine, and siRNAs targeting beclin 1 or Atg5, on the cytotoxicity of cisplatin. Treatment with 3-MA, chloroquine or beclin 1 and Atg5-targeted siRNA also enhanced the sensitivity of SKOV3, A2780 and OVCAR3 cells to cisplatin, indicating that suppression of autophagy indeed renders tumor cells more sensitive to cisplatin. Regulation of autophagy by NAC1 was mediated via high mobility group box1 (HMGB1), as the functional status of NAC1 was associated with the expression, translocation and release of HMGB1. The results of our study not only revealed a new mechanism determining cisplatin sensitivity, but also identified NAC1 as a novel regulator of autophagy. Thus, the NAC1- mediated autophagy may be exploited as a new target for enhancing the efficacy of cisplatin against ovarian cancer and other types of malignancies.
NAC1; autophagy; apoptosis; HMGB1; cisplatin; ovarian cancer
Eukaryotic elongation factor-2 (eEF-2) kinase, also known as calmodulin-dependent protein kinase III, is a unique calcium/calmodulin-dependent enzyme. eEF-2 kinase can act as a negative regulator of protein synthesis and a positive regulator of autophagy under environmental or metabolic stresses. Akt, a key downstream effector of the PI3K signaling pathway that regulates cell survival and proliferation, is an attractive therapeutic target for anticancer treatment. Akt inhibition leads to activation of both apoptosis, type I programmed cell death and autophagy, a cellular degradation process via lysosomal machinery (also termed type II programmed cell death). However, the underlying mechanisms that dictate functional relationship between autophagy and apoptosis in response to Akt inhibition remain to be delineated. Our recent study demonstrated that inhibition of eEF-2 kinase can suppress autophagy but promote apoptosis in tumor cells subjected to Akt inhibition, indicating a role of eEF-2 kinase as a controller in the crosstalk between autophagy and apoptosis. Furthermore, inhibition of eEF-2 kinase can reinforce the efficacy of a novel Akt inhibitor, MK-2206, against human glioma. These findings may help optimize the use of Akt inhibitors in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.
eEF-2 kinase; Akt; autophagy; apoptosis; MK-2206; cancer treatment
Inhibition of the survival kinase Akt can trigger apoptosis but also has been found to activate autophagy, which may confound tumor attack. In this study, we investigated regulatory mechanisms through which apoptosis and autophagy were modulated in tumor cells subjected to Akt inhibition by MK-2206, the first allosteric small molecule inhibitor of Akt to enter clinical development. In human glioma cells, Akt inhibition by MK-2206 or siRNA-mediated attenuation strongly activated autophagy, whereas silencing of eukaryotic elongation factor-2 (eEF-2) kinase, a protein synthesis regulator, blunted this autophagic response. Suppression of MK-2206-induced autophagy by eEF-2 silencing was accompanied by a promotion of apoptotic cell death. Similarly, siRNA-mediated inhibition of eEF-2 kinase potentiated the efficacy of MK-2206 against glioma cells. Together, these results demonstrated that blunting autophagy and augmenting apoptosis by inhibition of eEF-2 kinase could modulate the sensitivity of glioma cells to Akt inhibition. Our findings suggest that targeting eEF-2 kinase may reinforce the anti-tumor efficacy of Akt inhibitors such as MK-2206.
Elongation factor-2 kinase; Akt; Autophagy; Apoptosis; MK-2206; Glioblastoma
We reported a novel interaction between Beclin 1, a key regulator of autophagy, and survivin, a member of the IAP family. We found that knock-down of Beclin 1 down-regulated survivin protein, and the turnover rate of survivin was increased when Beclin 1 expression was silenced. Knock-down of Beclin 1 sensitized glioma cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis, and introduction of survivin antagonized the sensitizing effect, suggesting that down-regulation of survivin mediates the enhanced sensitivity to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. These results demonstrate a novel interaction between Beclin 1 and survivin, and may provide a potential mechanism underlying the cross-talk between autophagy and apoptosis.
apoptosis; autophagy; Beclin 1; survivin; TRAIL
EMMPRIN, a transmembrane glycoprotein known to pro-mote survival, invasion and metastasis of tumor cells through multiple pathways and mechanisms, has been found to be overexpressed in various types of cancer cells. Here we report that loss of the function of p53, a tumor suppressor protein that is mutated in approximately 50% of human cancers, contributes to the upregulation of EMMPRIN protein. We observed an inverse association between the activity of p53 and the level of EMMPRIN protein in several cancer cell lines. We further demonstrated that p53 is able to negatively regulate EMMPRIN protein, but downregulation of EMMPRIN by p53 is independent of repression of the EMMPRIN transcription. Furthermore, downregulation of EMMPRIN by p53 can be rescued by chloroquine, a lysosome inhibitor, but not by MG132, a proteasome inhibitor, suggesting an involvement of the lysosomal pathway in the p53-regulated degradation of EMMPRIN. Downregulation of EMMPRIN by p53 leads to a decrease in the activity of MMP-9 and an inhibition of tumor cell invasion. Our study suggests that the upregulation of EMMPRIN seen in many cancers can be attributed to, at least in part, the dysfunction of p53 and thus provides new evidence for the roles of p53 in tumor development and progression.
p53; extracellular matrix metalloproteinase inducer; matrix metalloproteinase; tumor progression
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.
beclin 1; autophagy; microRNA; miR-30a; gene expression
2-Deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG), a synthetic glucose analog that acts as a glycolytic inhibitor, is currently being evaluated in the clinic as an anticancer agent. In this study, we observed that treatment of human glioma cells with 2-DG activated autophagy, a highly conserved cellular response to metabolic stress and a catabolic process of self-digestion of intracellular organelles for energy utilization and survival in stressed cells. The induction of autophagy by 2-DG was associated with activation of elongation factor-2 kinase (eEF-2 kinase), a structurally and functionally unique enzyme that phosphorylates eEF-2 leading to loss of affinity of this elongation factor for the ribosome and to termination of protein elongation. We also showed that inhibition of eEF-2 kinase by RNA interference blunted the 2-DG-induced autophagic response, resulted in a greater reduction of cellular ATP contents, and increased the sensitivity of tumor cells to the cytotoxic effect of 2-DG. Furthermore, the blunted autophagy and enhanced 2-DG cytotoxicity were accompanied by augmentation of apoptosis in cells in which eEF-2 kinase expression was knocked down. The results of this study indicate that the energy stress and cytotoxicity caused by 2-DG can be accelerated by inhibition of eEF-2 kinase, and suggest that targeting eEF-2 kinase – regulated autophagic survival pathway may represent a novel approach to sensitizing cancer cells to glycolytic inhibitors.
Elongation factor-2 kinase; 2-Deoxy-D-Glucose; Glycolysis; Autophagy; Protein synthesis; Glioblastoma
Drug resistance caused by overexpression of P-glycoprotein (P-gp), the MDR1 (ABCB1) gene product, limits the therapeutic outcome. Expression of MDR1 can be induced by divergent stimuli, and involves a number of transcriptional factors. We found that the expression of CtBP1 (C-terminal-binding protein 1), a transcriptional co-regulator, was increased (~4 – fold) in human multidrug resistant (MDR) cancer cell lines, NCI/ADR-RES and A2780/DX, as compared to their sensitive counterparts. Silencing of CtBP1 expression by RNAi decreased the MDR1 mRNA and P-gp. Knockdown of CtBP1 also enhanced the sensitivity of MDR cells to chemotherapeutic drugs that are transported by P-gp and increased intracellular drug accumulation. In a reporter gene assay, co-transfection of MDR1 promoter constructs with a CtBP1 expression vector resulted in a ~2–4-fold induction of MDR1 promoter activity. CtBP1 appeared to contribute to the activation of MDR1 transcription through directly interacting with the MDR1 promoter, as evidenced by its physical binding to the promoter region of the MDR1 gene in chromatin immunoprecipitation and electromobility shift assays. Histone modifications at the MDR1 promoter, such as mono-methylation, di-methylation, and acetylation of histone H3, were not found to be affected by silencing of CtBP1 expression. Our results reveal a novel role for CtBP1 as an activator of MDR1 gene transcription, and suggest that CtBP1 might be one of the key transcription factors involved in the induction of MDR1 gene. Therefore, CtBP1 may represent a potentially new target for inhibiting drug resistance mediated by overexpression of the MDR1 gene.
Multidrug resistance; MDR1 gene; P-glycoprotein; CtBP1; transcription; cancer
In the title compound, C17H21ClNO4P·C3H7NO, the dihedral angle formed by the aromatic rings is 83.98 (7)°. In the crystal, O—H⋯O, N—H⋯O and C—H⋯O hydrogen bonds link the molecules into double layers parallel to (011).
crystal structure; hydrogen bond; phosphonate
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common form of brain cancer with an average survival of less than 12 months, is a highly aggressive and fatal disease characterized by survival of glioma cells following initial treatment, invasion through the brain parenchyma and destruction of normal brain tissues, and ultimately resistance to current treatments. Temozolomide (TMZ) is commonly used chemotherapy for treatment of primary and recurrent high-grade gliomas. Nevertheless, the therapeutic outcome of TMZ is often unsatisfactory. In this study, we sought to determine whether eEF-2 kinase affected the sensitivity of glioma cells to treatment with TMZ.
Using RNA interference approach, a small molecule inhibitor of eEF-2 kinase, and in
vitro and in
vivo glioma models, we observed that inhibition of eEF-2 kinase could enhance sensitivity of glioma cells to TMZ, and that this sensitizing effect was associated with blockade of autophagy and augmentation of apoptosis caused by TMZ.
These findings demonstrated that targeting eEF-2 kinase can enhance the anti-glioma activity of TMZ, and inhibitors of this kinase may be exploited as chemo-sensitizers for TMZ in treatment of malignant glioma.
Eukaryotic elongation factor-2 kinase (eEF-2K) is a Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent enzyme that negatively regulates protein synthesis. eEF-2K has been shown to be up-regulated in cancer, and to play an important role in cell survival through inhibition of protein synthesis. Post-translational modification of protein synthesis machinery is important for its regulation and could be critical for survival of cancer cells encountering stress. The purpose of our study was to examine the regulation of eEF-2K during stress with a focus on the roles of phosphorylation in determining the stability of eEF-2K. We found that stress conditions (nutrient deprivation and hypoxia) increase eEF-2K protein. mRNA levels are only transiently increased and shortly return to normal, while eEF-2K protein levels continue to increase after further exposure to stress. A seemingly paradoxical decrease in eEF-2K stability was found when glioma cells were subjected to stress despite increased protein expression. We further demonstrated that phosphorylation of eEF-2K differentially affects the enzyme’s turnover under both normal and stress conditions, as evidenced by the different half-lives of phosphorylation-defective mutants of eEF-2K. We further found that the eEF-2K site (Ser398) phosphorylated by AMPK is pivotal to the protein’s stability, as the half-life of S398A mutant increases to greater than 24 h under both normal and stress conditions. These data indicate that eEF-2K is regulated at multiple levels with phosphorylation playing a critical role in the enzyme’s turnover under stressful conditions. The complexity of eEF-2K phosphorylation highlights the intricacies of protein synthesis control during cellular stress.
eEF-2K; Phosphorylation; Enzyme stability; Protein synthesis; Glioblastoma; AMPK
To determine whether elongation factor-2 kinase (eEF-2 kinase) contributes to the malignant phenotype of glioblastoma multiforme by promoting the migration and invasion of glioma cells. The mechanism involved was also explored.
Human glioma cell lines T98G and LN-229 were used. The expression of eEF-2 kinase was silenced using siRNA, and the invasive potential of tumor cells was assessed using a wound-healing assay and a Matrigel invasion assay. Apoptosis was determined using propidium iodide (PI) staining and western blot analysis of cleaved caspase-3.
Silencing the expression of eEF-2 kinase by siRNA significantly suppressed both the migration and invasion of human glioma cells. Silencing eEF-2 kinase expression also sensitized glioma cells to anoikis, thereby decreasing tumor cell viability in the absence of attachment. Treatment of tumor cells with the caspase inhibitor z-VAD-fmk down-regulated Bim accumulation and abolished glioma cell sensitivity to anoikis.
The results suggest that the expression of eEF-2 kinase contributes to migration and invasion of human glioma cells by protecting them from anoikis. eEF-2 kinase expression may serve as a prognostic marker and a novel target for cancer therapy.
eEF-2 kinase; migration; invasion; anoikis; glioma
Autophagy, an evolutionarily conserved lysosomal degradation process, has drawn an increasing amount of attention in recent years for its role in a variety of human diseases, such as cancer. Notably, autophagy plays an important role in regulating several survival and death signaling pathways that determine cell fate in cancer. To date, substantial evidence has demonstrated that some key autophagic mediators, such as autophagy-related genes (ATGs), PI3K, mTOR, p53, and Beclin-1, may play crucial roles in modulating autophagic activity in cancer initiation and progression. Because autophagy-modulating agents such as rapamycin and chloroquine have already been used clinically to treat cancer, it is conceivable that targeting autophagic pathways may provide a new opportunity for discovery and development of more novel cancer therapeutics. With a deeper understanding of the regulatory mechanisms governing autophagy, we will have a better opportunity to facilitate the exploitation of autophagy as a target for therapeutic intervention in cancer. This review discusses the current status of targeting autophagic pathways as a potential cancer therapy.
Autophagy; cancer; cell death; survival; drug discovery
The DNA alkylating agent temozolomide (TMZ) is widely used in the treatment of human malignancies such as glioma and melanoma. On the basis of previous structure-activity studies, we recently synthesized a new TMZ selenium analog by rationally introducing an N-ethylselenocyanate extension to the amide functionality in TMZ structure.
This TMZ-Se analog showed a superior cytotoxicity to TMZ in human glioma and melanoma cells and a more potent tumor-inhibiting activity than TMZ in mouse glioma and melanoma xenograft model. TMZ-Se was also effective against a TMZ-resistant glioma cell line. To explore the mechanism underlying the superior antitumor activity of TMZ-Se, we compared the effects of TMZ and TMZ-Se on apoptosis and autophagy. Apoptosis was significantly increased in tumor cells treated with TMZ-Se in comparison to those treated with TMZ. TMZ-Se also triggered greater autophagic response, as compared with TMZ, and suppressing autophagy partly rescued cell death induced by TMZ-Se, indicating that TMZ-Se-triggered autophagy contributed to cell death. Although mRNA level of the key autophagy gene, Beclin 1, was increased, Beclin 1 protein was down-regulated in the cells treated with TMZ-Se. The decrease in Beclin 1 following TMZ-Se treatment were rescued by the calpain inhibitors and the calpain-mediated degradation of Beclin1 had no effect on autophagy but promoted apoptosis in cells treated with TMZ-Se.
Our study indicates that incorporation of Se into TMZ can render greater potency to this chemotherapeutic drug.
ATF5 has been shown to be a critical regulator of cell proliferation and survival; however, the underlying mechanism remains largely unknown. We demonstrate here that ATF5 interacts with the transcriptional coactivator p300, which acetylates ATF5 at lysine-29 (K29), which in turn enhances the interaction between ATF5 and p300 and binding of the ATF5/p300 complex to the ATF5 response element (ARE) region of the Egr-1 promoter. ARE-bound ATF5/p300 acetylates lysine-14 (K14) of nucleosomal histone H3 at both the ARE and serum response element (SRE) of the Egr-1 promoter, which facilitates binding of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-phosphorylated Elk-1 to the SRE, activating the Egr-1 promoter. Interference of p300-dependent acetylation of ATF5 or nucleosomal histone H3 or blockade of ERK-dependent Elk-1 phosphorylation abrogates ATF5-dependent Egr-1 activation and cell proliferation and survival. These findings assign a central role for the ATF5/p300 complex in ATF5 function and suggest that coordinated actions by ATF5, p300, Elk-1, and ERK/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) are essential for ATF5-dependent Egr-1 activation and cell proliferation and survival.