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PLoS One. 2010 Jul 29;5(7):e11865. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011865.

Role of endoplasmic reticulum stress in alpha-TEA mediated TRAIL/DR5 death receptor dependent apoptosis.

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School of Biological Sciences/C0900, Department of Nutritional Sciences/A2703, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, United States of America.



Alpha-TEA (RRR-alpha-tocopherol ether-linked acetic acid analog), a derivative of RRR-alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) exhibits anticancer actions in vitro and in vivo in variety of cancer types. The objective of this study was to obtain additional insights into the mechanisms involved in alpha-TEA induced apoptosis in human breast cancer cells.


alpha-TEA induces endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress as indicated by increased expression of CCAAT/enhancer binding protein homologous protein (CHOP) as well as by enhanced expression or activation of specific markers of ER stress such as glucose regulated protein (GRP78), phosphorylated alpha subunit of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (peIF-2alpha), and spliced XBP-1 mRNA. Knockdown studies using siRNAs to TRAIL, DR5, JNK and CHOP as well as chemical inhibitors of ER stress and caspase-8 showed that: i) alpha-TEA activation of DR5/caspase-8 induces an ER stress mediated JNK/CHOP/DR5 positive amplification loop; ii) alpha-TEA downregulation of c-FLIP (L) protein levels is mediated by JNK/CHOP/DR5 loop via a JNK dependent Itch E3 ligase ubiquitination that further serves to enhance the JNK/CHOP/DR5 amplification loop by preventing c-FLIP's inhibition of caspase-8; and (iii) alpha-TEA downregulation of Bcl-2 is mediated by the ER stress dependent JNK/CHOP/DR5 signaling.


Taken together, ER stress plays an important role in alpha-TEA induced apoptosis by enhancing DR5/caspase-8 pro-apoptotic signaling and suppressing anti-apoptotic factors c-FLIP and Bcl-2 via ER stress mediated JNK/CHOP/DR5/caspase-8 signaling.

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