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J Biol Chem. 2002 May 10;277(19):16448-55. Epub 2002 Mar 5.

The novel triterpenoid 2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9-dien-28-oic acid (CDDO) potently enhances apoptosis induced by tumor necrosis factor in human leukemia cells.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755, USA.


Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is a potent activator of the nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) pathway that leads to up-regulation of anti-apoptotic proteins. Hence, TNF induces apoptosis in the presence of inhibitors of protein or RNA synthesis. We report that a novel triterpenoid, 2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9,-dien-28-oic acid (CDDO) inhibits NF-kappaB-mediated gene expression at a step after translocation of activated NF-kappaB to the nucleus. This effect appears specific for the NF-kappaB pathway as CDDO does not inhibit gene expression induced by the phorbol ester 12-0-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA). CDDO in combination with TNF caused a dramatic increase in apoptosis in ML-1 leukemia cells that was associated with activation of caspase-8, cleavage of Bid, translocation of Bax, cytochrome c release, and caspase-3 activation. Experiments with caspase inhibitors demonstrated that caspase-8 was an initiator of this pathway. TNF also induced a transient activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), which upon addition of CDDO was converted to a sustained activation. The activation of JNK was also dependent on caspase-8. Sustained activation of JNK is frequently pro-apoptotic, yet inhibition of JNK did not prevent Bax translocation or cytochrome c release, demonstrating its lack of involvement in CDDO/TNF-induced apoptosis. Apoptosis was acutely induced by CDDO/TNF in every leukemia cell line tested including those that overexpress Bcl-x(L), suggesting that the mitochondrial pathway is not required for apoptosis by this combination. These results suggest that the apoptotic potency of the CDDO/TNF combination occurs through selective inhibition of NF-kappaB-dependent anti-apoptotic proteins, bypassing potential mitochondrial resistance mechanisms, and thus may provide a basis for the development of novel approaches to the treatment of leukemia.

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