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Cancer Sci. 2009 Aug;100(8):1460-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1349-7006.2009.01194.x. Epub 2009 May 13.

Vacuolar H+-ATPase inhibitors overcome Bcl-xL-mediated chemoresistance through restoration of a caspase-independent apoptotic pathway.

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Department of Biosciences and Informatics, Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University, Yokohama, Japan.


The anti-apoptotic oncoproteins Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL play crucial roles in tumorigenesis and chemoresistance, and are thus therapeutic cancer targets. We searched for small molecules that disturbed the anti-apoptotic function of Bcl-2 or Bcl-xL, and found vacuolar H(+)-ATPase (V-ATPase) inhibitors, such as bafilomycin A1 (BMA), that showed such activity. Bcl-xL-overexpressing Ms-1 cells displayed resistance to anticancer drugs, but underwent apoptosis following treatment with a combination of V-ATPase inhibitors at doses similar to those that caused inhibitory activities of V-ATPase. We investigated the apoptosis mechanism induced by cotreatment of Bcl-xL-overexpressing Ms-1 cells with BMA as a V-ATPase inhibitor and taxol (TXL) as an anticancer drug. With BMA, TXL triggered mitochondrial membrane potential loss and cytochrome c release, whereas downstream caspase activation was not observed. In contrast, pronounced nuclear translocation of mitochondrial apoptosis-inducing factor and endonuclease G, known as effectors of caspase-independent apoptosis, was observed with BMA and TXL cotreatment. Moreover, depletion of apoptosis-inducing factor and endonuclease G using each siRNA significantly rescued cells from BMA- and TXL-induced apoptosis. Hence, the apoptosis-inducing factor- and endonuclease G-dependent pathway was critical for apoptosis induction by BMA and TXL cotreatment. Our data suggest that V-ATPase inhibitors could not only suppress anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 nor Bcl-xL but could also facilitate the caspase-independent apoptotic pathway. V-ATPase inhibition will be a promising therapeutic approach for Bcl-2- or Bcl-xL-overexpressing malignancies.

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