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Mol Pharmacol. 2008 Sep;74(3):807-22. doi: 10.1124/mol.108.047365. Epub 2008 Jun 10.

Lapatinib resistance in HCT116 cells is mediated by elevated MCL-1 expression and decreased BAK activation and not by ERBB receptor kinase mutation.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23298-0035, USA.


We have defined some of the mechanisms by which the kinase inhibitor lapatinib kills HCT116 cells. Lapatinib inhibited radiation-induced activation of ERBB1/2, extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1/2, 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 epidermal growth factor (EGF)-stimulated ERBB1 phosphorylation in adapted cells. Coexpression of dominant-negative ERBB1 and dominant-negative ERBB2 inhibited basal and EGF-stimulated ERBB1 and ERBB2 phosphorylation in parental and adapted 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. Overexpression of BCL-XL protected parental cells from lapatinib toxicity. Knockdown of MCL-1 expression enhanced lapatinib toxicity in adapted cells that was reverted by knockdown of BAK expression. Inhibition of caspase function modestly reduced lapatinib toxicity in parental cells, whereas knockdown of apoptosis-inducing factor expression suppressed lapatinib toxicity. Thus, in HCT116 cells, lapatinib adaptation can be mediated by altered expression of pro- and antiapoptotic proteins that maintain mitochondrial function.

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