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Exp Cell Res. 2003 Oct 1;289(2):256-64.

Defective stress kinase and Bak activation in response to ionizing radiation but not cisplatin in a non-small cell lung carcinoma cell line.

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Cancer Center Karolinska, Department of Oncology-Pathology, Karolinska Institute, S-171 76 Stockholm, Sweden.


We have here examined ionizing radiation (IR)-induced apoptotic signaling in one IR-sensitive small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) and one resistant non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) cell line, both harboring mutant p53. In the sensitive SCLC cell line, IR induced conformational modulation of Bak and Bax, mitochondrial depolarization, and nuclear fragmentation. These events were not observed in the IR-resistant NSCLC cell line. However, in the same cells, cisplatin, a DNA-damaging drug, induced Bak and Bax modulation, mitochondrial depolarization, and nuclear fragmentation. Pre-mitochondrial signaling events were examined in order to further characterize the differing IR response. In the SCLC cell line, IR-induced apoptotic signaling was found to involve a MEKK1-related pathway and activation of the stress-activated kinases JNK and p38. In comparison, the NSCLC cell line had higher basal levels of activity of JNK and p38, and IR treatment did not further activate these kinases. However, NSCLC cells were sensitive to Bak modulation and apoptosis induced by a kinase-active mutant of MEKK1. Together, the results delineate a mechanism of IR resistance in NSCLC cells and indicate that IR and cisplatin induce Bak modulation and apoptosis via different pathways.

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