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J Biol Chem. 2010 Nov 12;285(46):35418-27. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.172767. Epub 2010 Sep 13.

Gossypol induces death receptor-5 through activation of the ROS-ERK-CHOP pathway and sensitizes colon cancer cells to TRAIL.

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  • 1Cytokine Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Therapeutics, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Development of resistance to TRAIL, an apoptosis-inducing cytokine, is one of the major problems in its development for cancer treatment. Thus, pharmacological agents that are safe and can sensitize the tumor cells to TRAIL are urgently needed. We investigated whether gossypol, a BH3 mimetic that is currently in the clinic, can potentiate TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Intracellular esterase activity, sub-G(1) cell cycle arrest, and caspase-8, -9, and -3 activity assays revealed that gossypol potentiated TRAIL-induced apoptosis in human colon cancer cells. Gossypol also down-regulated cell survival proteins (Bcl-x(L), Bcl-2, survivin, XIAP, and cFLIP) and dramatically up-regulated TRAIL death receptor (DR)-5 expression but had no effect on DR4 and decoy receptors. Gossypol-induced receptor induction was not cell type-specific, as DR5 induction was observed in other cell types. Deletion of DR5 by siRNA significantly reduced the apoptosis induced by TRAIL and gossypol. Gossypol induction of the death receptor required the induction of CHOP, and thus, gene silencing of CHOP abolished gossypol-induced DR5 expression and associated potentiation of apoptosis. ERK1/2 (but not p38 MAPK or JNK) activation was also required for gossypol-induced TRAIL receptor induction; gene silencing of ERK abolished both DR5 induction and potentiation of apoptosis by TRAIL. We also found that reactive oxygen species produced by gossypol treatment was critical for TRAIL receptor induction and apoptosis potentiation. Overall, our results show that gossypol enhances TRAIL-induced apoptosis through the down-regulation of cell survival proteins and the up-regulation of TRAIL death receptors through the ROS-ERK-CHOP-DR5 pathway.

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