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1.  Induction of Tumor Cell Apoptosis by a Proteasome Deubiquitinase Inhibitor Is Associated with Oxidative Stress 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2014;21(17):2271-2285.
Abstract
Aims: b-AP15 is a recently described inhibitor of the USP14/UCHL5 deubiquitinases (DUBs) of the 19S proteasome. Exposure to b-AP15 results in blocking of proteasome function and accumulation of polyubiquitinated protein substrates in cells. This novel mechanism of proteasome inhibition may potentially be exploited for cancer therapy, in particular for treatment of malignancies resistant to currently used proteasome inhibitors. The aim of the present study was to characterize the cellular response to b-AP15-mediated proteasome DUB inhibition. Results: We report that b-AP15 elicits a similar, but yet distinct, cellular response as the clinically used proteasome inhibitor bortezomib. b-AP15 induces a rapid apoptotic response, associated with enhanced induction of oxidative stress and rapid activation of Jun-N-terminal kinase 1/2 (JNK)/activating protein-1 signaling. Scavenging of reactive oxygen species and pharmacological inhibition of JNK reduced b-AP15-induced apoptosis. We further report that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is induced by b-AP15 and is involved in apoptosis induction. In contrast to bortezomib, ER stress is associated with induction of α-subunit of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 phosphorylation. Innovation: The findings establish that different modes of proteasome inhibition result in distinct cellular responses, a finding of potential therapeutic importance. Conclusion: Our data show that enhanced oxidative stress and ER stress are major determinants of the strong apoptotic response elicited by the 19S DUB inhibitor b-AP15. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 21, 2271–2285.
doi:10.1089/ars.2013.5322
PMCID: PMC4241954  PMID: 24011031
2.  Identification of a Novel Topoisomerase Inhibitor Effective in Cells Overexpressing Drug Efflux Transporters 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7238.
Background
Natural product structures have high chemical diversity and are attractive as lead structures for discovery of new drugs. One of the disease areas where natural products are most frequently used as therapeutics is oncology.
Method and Findings
A library of natural products (NCI Natural Product set) was screened for compounds that induce apoptosis of HCT116 colon carcinoma cells using an assay that measures an endogenous caspase-cleavage product. One of the apoptosis-inducing compounds identified in the screen was thaspine (taspine), an alkaloid from the South American tree Croton lechleri. The cortex of this tree is used for medicinal purposes by tribes in the Amazonas basin. Thaspine was found to induce conformational activation of the pro-apoptotic proteins Bak and Bax, mitochondrial cytochrome c release and mitochondrial membrane permeabilization in HCT116 cells. Analysis of the gene expression signature of thaspine-treated cells suggested that thaspine is a topoisomerase inhibitor. Inhibition of both topoisomerase I and II was observed using in vitro assays, and thaspine was found to have a reduced cytotoxic effect on a cell line with a mutated topoisomerase II enzyme. Interestingly, in contrast to the topoisomerase II inhibitors doxorubicin, etoposide and mitoxantrone, thaspine was cytotoxic to cell lines overexpressing the PgP or MRP drug efflux transporters. We finally show that thaspine induces wide-spread apoptosis in colon carcinoma multicellular spheroids and that apoptosis is induced in two xenograft mouse models in vivo.
Conclusions
The alkaloid thaspine from the cortex of Croton lechleri is a dual topoisomerase inhibitor effective in cells overexpressing drug efflux transporters and induces wide-spread apoptosis in multicellular spheroids.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007238
PMCID: PMC2749935  PMID: 19798419
3.  Sorafenib inhibits tumor growth and vascularization of rhabdomyosarcoma cells by blocking IGF-1R-mediated signaling 
OncoTargets and therapy  2008;1:67-78.
The growth of many soft tissue sarcomas is dependent on aberrant growth factor signaling, which promotes their proliferation and motility. With this in mind, we evaluated the effect of sorafenib, a receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor, on cell growth and apoptosis in sarcoma cell lines of various histological subtypes. We found that sorafenib effectively inhibited cell proliferation in rhabdomyosarcoma, synovial sarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma with IC50 values <5 μM. Sorafenib effectively induced growth arrest in rhabdomyosarcoma cells, which was concurrent with inhibition of Akt and Erk signaling. Studies of ligand-induced phosphorylation of Erk and Akt in rhabdomyosarcoma cells showed that insulin-like growth factor-1 is a potent activator, which can be blocked by treatment with sorafenib. In vivo sorafenib treatment of rhabdomyosarcoma xenografts had a significant inhibitory effect on tumor growth, which was associated with inhibited vascularization and enhanced necrosis in the adjacent tumor stroma. Our results demonstrate that in vitro and in vivo growth of rhabdomyosarcoma can be suppressed by treatment with sorafenib, and suggests the possibilities of using sorafenib as a potential adjuvant therapy for the treatment of rhabdomyosarcoma.
PMCID: PMC2994208  PMID: 21127754
soft tissue sarcoma; kinase inhibitors; targeted therapy; vascularization
4.  Charting calcium-regulated apoptosis pathways using chemical biology: role of calmodulin kinase II 
Background
Intracellular free calcium ([Ca2+]i) is a key element in apoptotic signaling and a number of calcium-dependent apoptosis pathways have been described. We here used a chemical biology strategy to elucidate the relative importance of such different pathways.
Results
A set of 40 agents ("bioprobes") that induce apoptosis was first identified by screening of a chemical library. Using p53, AP-1, NFAT and NF-κB reporter cell lines, these bioprobes were verified to induce different patterns of signaling. Experiments using the calcium chelator BAPTA-AM showed that Ca2+ was involved in induction of apoptosis by the majority of the bioprobes and that Ca2+ was in general required several hours into the apoptosis process. Further studies showed that the calmodulin pathway was an important mediator of the apoptotic response. Inhibition of calmodulin kinase II (CaMKII) resulted in more effective inhibition of apoptosis compared to inhibition of calpain, calcineurin/PP2B or DAP kinase. We used one of the bioprobes, the plant alkaloid helenalin, to study the role of CaMKII in apoptosis. Helenalin induced CaMKII, ASK1 and Jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK) activity, and inhibition of these kinases inhibited apoptosis.
Conclusion
Our study shows that calcium signaling is generally not an early event during the apoptosis process and suggests that a CaMKII/ASK1 signaling mechanism is important for sustained JNK activation and apoptosis by some types of stimuli.
doi:10.1186/1472-6769-8-2
PMCID: PMC2518916  PMID: 18673549

Results 1-4 (4)