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Mol Cancer. 2011 Jul 31;10:95. doi: 10.1186/1476-4598-10-95.

Essential role of caspase-8 in p53/p73-dependent apoptosis induced by etoposide in head and neck carcinoma cells.

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  • 1Section of Molecular Embryology, Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Tokyo, Japan.



Caspase-8 is a key upstream mediator in death receptor-mediated apoptosis and also participates in mitochondria-mediated apoptosis via cleavage of proapoptotic Bid. However, the role of caspase-8 in p53- and p73-dependent apoptosis induced by genotoxic drugs remains unclear. We recently reported that the reconstitution of procaspase-8 is sufficient for sensitizing cisplatin- but not etoposide-induced apoptosis, in chemoresistant and caspase-8 deficient HOC313 head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cells.


We show that p53/p73-dependent caspase-8 activation is required for sensitizing etoposide-induced apoptosis by utilizing HOC313 cells carrying a temperature-sensitive p53G285K mutant. Restoration of wild-type p53 function under the permissive conditions, together with etoposide treatment, led to substantial transcriptional activation of proapoptotic Noxa and PUMA, but failed to induce apoptosis. In addition to p53 restoration, caspase-8 reconstitution was needed for sensitization to etoposide-induced apoptosis, mitochondria depolarization, and cleavage of the procaspases-3, and -9. In etoposide-sensitive Ca9-22 cells carrying a temperature-insensitive mutant p53, siRNA-based p73 knockdown blocked etoposide-induced apoptosis and procaspase-8 cleavage. However, induction of p73 protein and up-regulation of Noxa and PUMA, although observed in Ca9-22 cells, were hardly detected in etoposide-treated HOC313 cells under non-permissive conditions, suggesting a contribution of p73 reduction to etoposide resistance in HOC313 cells. Finally, the caspase-9 inhibitor Ac-LEHD-CHO or caspase-9 siRNA blocked etoposide-induced caspase-8 activation, Bid cleavage, and apoptosis in both cell lines, indicating that p53/p73-dependent caspase-8 activation lies downstream of mitochondria.


we conclude that p53 and p73 can act as upstream regulators of caspase-8, and that caspase-8 is an essential mediator of the p53/p73-dependent apoptosis induced by etoposide in HNSCC cells. Our data suggest the importance of caspase-8-mediated positive feedback amplification in the p53/p73-dependent apoptosis induced by etoposide in HNSCC cells.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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