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J Biol Chem. 2004 Aug 20;279(34):35829-39. Epub 2004 May 20.

Deficient tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) death receptor transport to the cell surface in human colon cancer cells selected for resistance to TRAIL-induced apoptosis.

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Laboratory of Molecular Oncology and Cell Cycle Regulation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Medicine, Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


Many tumor cell types are sensitive to tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)-induced apoptosis. Incubation of TRAIL-sensitive cells with TRAIL invariably leads to resistant survivors even when high doses of TRAIL are used. Because the emergence of resistance to apoptosis is a major concern in successful treatment of cancer, and TRAIL survivors may contribute to therapeutic failure, we investigated potential resistance mechanisms. We selected TRAIL-resistant SW480 human colon adenocarcinoma cells by repeatedly treating them with high and/or low doses of TRAIL. The resulting TRAIL-resistant clones were not cross-resistant to Fas or paclitaxel. Expression of modulators of apoptosis was not changed in the resistant cells, including TRAIL receptors, cFLIP, Bax, Bid, or IAP proteins. Surprisingly, we found that DISC formation was deficient in multiple selected TRAIL-resistant clones. DR4 was not recruited to the DISC upon TRAIL treatment, and caspase-8 was not activated at the DISC. Although total cellular DR4 mRNA and protein were virtually identical in TRAIL-sensitive parental and TRAIL-resistant clones, DR4 protein expression on the cell surface was essentially undetectable in the TRAIL-resistant clones. Moreover, exogenous DR4 and KILLER/DR5 were not properly transported to the cell surface in the TRAIL-resistant cells. Interestingly, TRAIL-resistant cells were resensitized to TRAIL by tunicamycin pretreatment, which increased cell surface expression of DR4 and KILLER/DR5. Our data suggest that tumor cells may become resistant to TRAIL through regulation of the death receptor cell surface transport and that resistance to TRAIL may be overcome by the glycosylation inhibitor/endoplasmic reticulum stress-inducing agent tunicamycin.

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