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Tuberc Respir Dis (Seoul). 2013 Jul;75(1):9-17. doi: 10.4046/trd.2013.75.1.9. Epub 2013 Jul 31.

Autophagy Inhibition with Monensin Enhances Cell Cycle Arrest and Apoptosis Induced by mTOR or Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Inhibitors in Lung Cancer Cells.

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  • 1Division of Pulmonology, Department of Internal Medicine, Korea Cancer Center Hospital, Seoul, Korea.



In cancer cells, autophagy is generally induced as a pro-survival mechanism in response to treatment-associated genotoxic and metabolic stress. Thus, concurrent autophagy inhibition can be expected to have a synergistic effect with chemotherapy on cancer cell death. Monensin, a polyether antibiotic, is known as an autophagy inhibitor, which interferes with the fusion of autophagosome and lysosome. There have been a few reports of its effect in combination with anticancer drugs. We performed this study to investigate whether erlotinib, an epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitor, or rapamycin, an mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitor, is effective in combination therapy with monensin in non-small cell lung cancer cells.


NCI-H1299 cells were treated with rapamycin or erlotinib, with or without monensin pretreatment, and then subjected to growth inhibition assay, apoptosis analysis by flow cytometry, and cell cycle analysis on the basis of the DNA contents histogram. Finally, a Western blot analysis was done to examine the changes of proteins related to apoptosis and cell cycle control.


Monensin synergistically increases growth inhibition and apoptosis induced by rapamycin or erlotinib. The number of cells in the sub-G1 phase increases noticeably after the combination treatment. Increase of proapoptotic proteins, including bax, cleaved caspase 3, and cleaved poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, and decrease of anti-apoptotic proteins, bcl-2 and bcl-xL, are augmented by the combination treatment with monensin. The promoters of cell cycle progression, notch3 and skp2, decrease and p21, a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, accumulates within the cell during this process.


Our findings suggest that concurrent autophagy inhibition could have a role in lung cancer treatment.


Apoptosis; Autophagy; Cell Cycle; Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor-Neu Receptor; Monensin; TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases

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