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Oncogene. 2003 Aug 7;22(32):4953-63.

The proteasome inhibitor PS-341 overcomes TRAIL resistance in Bax and caspase 9-negative or Bcl-xL overexpressing cells.

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Division of Medical Oncology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, 4200 East Ninth Ave., Denver, CO 80262, USA.


We demonstrate that PS-341, a small molecule inhibitor of the proteasome, markedly sensitizes resistant prostate, colon, and bladder cancer cells to TNF-like apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)-induced apoptosis irrespective of Bcl-xL overexpression. PS-341 treatment by itself does not affect the levels of Bax, Bak, caspases 3 and 8, c-Flip or FADD, but elevates levels of TRAIL receptors DR4 and DR5. This increase in receptor protein levels is associated with the ubiquitination of the DR5 protein. When PS-341 is combined with TRAIL, the levels of activated caspase 8 and cleaved Bid are substantially increased. In Bax-negative TRAIL-resistant HC-4 colon cancer cells, the combination of PS-341 and TRAIL overcomes the block to activation of the mitochondrial pathway and causes SMAC and cytochrome c release followed by apoptosis. Similarly, murine embryonic fibroblasts lacking Bax undergo apoptosis when exposed to the combination of PS-341 and TRAIL; however, fibroblasts lacking Bak are significantly resistant. Taken together, these findings indicate that PS-341 enhances TRAIL-induced apoptosis by increasing the cleavage of caspase 8, causing Bak-dependent release of mitochondrial proapoptotic proteins.

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