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Cancer Res. 2008 May 1;68(9):3440-9. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-0014.

TRAIL inactivates the mitotic checkpoint and potentiates death induced by microtubule-targeting agents in human cancer cells.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) has attracted interest as an anticancer treatment, when used in conjunction with standard chemotherapy. We investigated the mechanistic basis for combining low-dose TRAIL with microtubule-targeting agents that invoke the mitotic checkpoint. Treatment of T98G and HCT116 cells with nocodazole alone resulted in a robust mitotic block with initially little cell death; low levels of cell death were also seen with TRAIL alone at 10 ng/mL final concentration. In contrast, the addition of low-dose TRAIL to nocodazole was associated with maximally increased caspase-3, caspase-8, and caspase-9 activation, which efficiently abrogated the mitotic delay and markedly increased cell death. In contrast, the abrogation of mitotic checkpoint and increased cell death were blocked by inhibitors of caspase-8 and caspase-9 or pan-caspase inhibitor. The addition of TRAIL to either nocodazole or paclitaxel (Taxol) reduced levels of the mitotic checkpoint proteins BubR1 and Bub1. BubR1 mutated for the caspase cleavage sites, but not wild-type BubR1, was resistant to cleavage induced by TRAIL added to nocodazole, and partially blocked the checkpoint abrogation. These results suggest that adding a relatively low concentration of TRAIL to antimicrotubule agents markedly increases complete caspase activation. This in turn accentuates degradation of spindle checkpoint proteins such as BubR1 and Bub1, contributes to abrogation of the mitotic checkpoint, and induces cancer cell death. These results suggest that TRAIL may increase the anticancer efficacy of microtubule-targeting drugs.

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