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PLoS One. 2010 Jul 22;5(7):e11700. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011700.

Tumor associated macrophages protect colon cancer cells from TRAIL-induced apoptosis through IL-1beta-dependent stabilization of Snail in tumor cells.

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Department of Oncology, Albert Einstein Cancer Center, Montefiore Medical Center, New York, New York, United States of America.



We recently reported that colon tumor cells stimulate macrophages to release IL-1beta, which in turn inactivates GSK3beta and enhances Wnt signaling in colon cancer cells, generating a self-amplifying loop that promotes the growth of tumor cells.


Here we describe that macrophages protect HCT116 and Hke-3 colon cancer cells from TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Inactivation of IL-1beta by neutralizing IL-1beta antibody, or silencing of IL-1beta in macrophages inhibited their ability to counter TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Accordingly, IL-1beta was sufficient to inhibit TRAIL-induced apoptosis. TRAIL-induced collapse of the mitochondrial membrane potential (Delta psi) and activation of caspases were prevented by macrophages or by recombinant IL-1beta. Pharmacological inhibition of IL-1beta release from macrophages by vitamin D(3), a potent chemopreventive agent for colorectal cancer, restored the ability of TRAIL to induce apoptosis of tumor cells cultured with macrophages. Macrophages and IL-1beta failed to inhibit TRAIL-induced apoptosis in HCT116 cells expressing dnIkappaB, dnAKT or dnTCF4, confirming that they oppose TRAIL-induced cell death through induction of Wnt signaling in tumor cells. We showed that macrophages and IL-1beta stabilized Snail in tumor cells in an NF-kappaB/Wnt dependent manner and that Snail deficient tumor cells were not protected from TRAIL-induced apoptosis by macrophages or by IL-1beta, demonstrating a crucial role of Snail in the resistance of tumor cells to TRAIL.


We have identified a positive feedback loop between tumor cells and macrophages that propagates the growth and promotes the survival of colon cancer cells: tumor cells stimulate macrophages to secrete IL-1beta, which in turn, promotes Wnt signaling and stabilizes Snail in tumor cells, conferring resistance to TRAIL. Vitamin D(3) halts this amplifying loop by interfering with the release of IL-1beta from macrophages. Accordingly, vitamin D(3) sensitizes tumor cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis, suggesting that the therapeutic efficacy of TRAIL could be augmented by this readily available chemopreventive agent.

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