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PLoS One. 2011 Jan 17;6(1):e16241. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016241.

TNFα cooperates with IFN-γ to repress Bcl-xL expression to sensitize metastatic colon carcinoma cells to TRAIL-mediated apoptosis.

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College of Life Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, People's Republic of China.



TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is an immune effector molecule that functions as a selective anti-tumor agent. However, tumor cells, especially metastatic tumor cells often exhibit a TRAIL-resistant phenotype, which is currently a major impediment in TRAIL therapy. The aim of this study is to investigate the synergistic effect of TNFα and IFN-γ in sensitizing metastatic colon carcinoma cells to TRAIL-mediated apoptosis.


The efficacy and underlying molecular mechanism of cooperation between TNFα and IFN-γ in sensitizing metastatic colon carcinoma cells to TRAIL-mediated apoptosis were examined. The functional significance of TNFα- and IFN-γ-producing T lymphocyte immunotherapy in combination with TRAIL therapy in suppression of colon carcinoma metastasis was determined in an experimental metastasis mouse model. We observed that TNFα or IFN-γ alone exhibits minimal sensitization effects, but effectively sensitized metastatic colon carcinoma cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis when used in combination. TNFα and IFN-γ cooperate to repress Bcl-xL expression, whereas TNFα represses Survivin expression in the metastatic colon carcinoma cells. Silencing Bcl-xL expression significantly increased the metastatic colon carcinoma cell sensitivity to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Conversely, overexpression of Bcl-xL significantly decreased the tumor cell sensitivity to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Furthermore, TNFα and IFN-γ also synergistically enhanced TRAIL-induced caspase-8 activation. TNFα and IFN-γ was up-regulated in activated primary and tumor-specific T cells. TRAIL was expressed in tumor-infiltrating immune cells in vivo, and in tumor-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) ex vivo. Consequently, TRAIL therapy in combination with TNFα/IFN-γ-producing CTL adoptive transfer immunotherapy effectively suppressed colon carcinoma metastasis in vivo.


TNFα and IFN-γ cooperate to overcome TRAIL resistance at least partially through enhancing caspase 8 activation and repressing Bcl-xL expression. Combined CTL immunotherapy and TRAIL therapy hold great promise for further development for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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