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Phys Biol. 2013 Jun;10(3):035002. doi: 10.1088/1478-3975/10/3/035002. Epub 2013 Jun 4.

Modulating cell-to-cell variability and sensitivity to death ligands by co-drugging.

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  • 1Center for Cell Decision Processes, Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, 200 Longwood Ave, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

Abstract

TRAIL (tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand) holds promise as an anti-cancer therapeutic but efficiently induces apoptosis in only a subset of tumor cell lines. Moreover, even in clonal populations of responsive lines, only a fraction of cells dies in response to TRAIL and individual cells exhibit cell-to-cell variability in the timing of cell death. Fractional killing in these cell populations appears to arise not from genetic differences among cells but rather from differences in gene expression states, fluctuations in protein levels and the extent to which TRAIL-induced death or survival pathways become activated. In this study, we ask how cell-to-cell variability manifests in cell types with different sensitivities to TRAIL, as well as how it changes when cells are exposed to combinations of drugs. We show that individual cells that survive treatment with TRAIL can regenerate the sensitivity and death-time distribution of the parental population, demonstrating that fractional killing is a stable property of cell populations. We also show that cell-to-cell variability in the timing and probability of apoptosis in response to treatment can be tuned using combinations of drugs that together increase apoptotic sensitivity compared to treatment with one drug alone. In the case of TRAIL, modulation of cell-to-cell variability by co-drugging appears to involve a reduction in the threshold for mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization.

PMID:
23735516
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3775495
Free PMC Article

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