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Biochem Pharmacol. 2009 Sep 15;78(6):573-82. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2009.05.016. Epub 2009 May 21.

Sensitization of human K562 leukemic cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis by inhibiting the DNA-PKcs/Akt-mediated cell survival pathway.

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Department of Biochemistry, Pusan National University School of Medicine, Yangsan, South Korea.


Despite the fact that many cancer cells are sensitive to TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)-induced apoptosis, human K562 leukemic cells showed resistance to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Interestingly, K562/R3 cells, a stable TRAIL-sensitive variant isolated from K562 cells, showed down-regulation of DNA-PK/Akt pathway and a high responsiveness to TRAIL-mediated growth inhibition and apoptosis. We revealed that siRNA-mediated suppression of DNA-PKcs led to decreased phosphorylation of Akt and Bad, a target molecule of Akt, and increased expression of DR4/DR5. Also, we found that suppression of DNA-PKcs using siRNA down-regulated c-FLIP and sensitized K562 cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis through activation of caspase-8, -9 and -3. In addition, we revealed that treatment with DMNB, a specific inhibitor of DNA-PK, resulted in an increase of DR4/DR5 mRNA levels and their surface expression and a decrease of c-FLIP mRNA levels in K562 cells. DMNB potentiated TRAIL-induced cytotoxicity and apoptosis through inhibition of DNA-PK/Akt pathway and activation of caspase-8, -9 and -3 in K562 cells. This study is the first to show that a protective role of DNA-PK/Akt pathway against TRAIL-induced apoptosis and thus TRAIL in combination with agents that inhibit DNA-PK/Akt pathway would have clinical applicability in treating TRAIL-insensitive human leukemic cells. This model may provide a novel framework for overcoming TRAIL resistance of other cancer cells with agents that inhibit DNA-PK/Akt pathway.

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