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J Biol Chem. 2009 Jun 12;284(24):16183-90. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.002105. Epub 2009 Apr 17.

Notch1 signaling sensitizes tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand-induced apoptosis in human hepatocellular carcinoma cells by inhibiting Akt/Hdm2-mediated p53 degradation and up-regulating p53-dependent DR5 expression.

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  • 1National Key Laboratory of Medical Immunology and Institute of Immunology, Second Military Medical University, Department of Surgery, Changzheng Hospital, Shanghai 200433, China.

Abstract

Notch signaling plays a critical role in regulating cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. Our previous study showed that overexpression of Notch1 could inhibit human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell growth by arresting the cell cycle and inducing apoptosis. HCC cells are resistant to apoptotic induction by tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), so new therapeutic approaches have been explored to sensitize HCC cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. We are wondering whether and how Notch1 signaling can enhance the sensitivity of HCC cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. In this study, we found that overexpression of ICN, the constitutive activated form of Notch1, up-regulated p53 protein expression in HCC cells by inhibiting proteasome degradation. p53 up-regulation was further observed in human primary hepatocellular carcinoma cells after activation of Notch signaling. Inhibition of the Akt/Hdm2 pathway by Notch1 signaling was responsible for the suppression of p53 proteasomal degradation, thus contributing to the Notch1 signaling-mediated up-regulation of p53 expression. Accordingly, Notch1 signaling could make HCC cells more sensitive to TRAIL-induced apoptosis, whereas Notch1 signaling lost the synergistic promotion of TRAIL-induced apoptosis in p53-silenced HepG2 HCC cells and p53-defective Hep3B HCC cells. The data suggest that enhancement of TRAIL-induced apoptosis by Notch1 signaling is dependent upon p53 up-regulation. Furthermore, Notch1 signaling could enhance DR5 expression in a p53-dependent manner. Taken together, Notch1 signaling sensitizes TRAIL-induced apoptosis in HCC cells by inhibiting Akt/Hdm2-mediated p53 degradation and up-regulating p53-dependent DR5 expression. Thus, our results suggest that activation of Notch1 signaling may be a promising approach to improve the therapeutic efficacy of TRAIL-resistant HCC.

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