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PLoS One. 2011;6(5):e20586. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020586. Epub 2011 May 31.

BIM-mediated AKT phosphorylation is a key modulator of arsenic trioxide-induced apoptosis in cisplatin-sensitive and -resistant ovarian cancer cells.

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State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy and Cancer Center, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China.



Chemo-resistance to cisplatin-centered cancer therapy is a major obstacle to the effective treatment of human ovarian cancer. Previous reports indicated that arsenic trioxide (ATO) induces cell apoptosis in both drug-sensitive and -resistant ovarian cancer cells.


In this study, we determined the molecular mechanism of ATO-induced apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells. Our data demonstrated that ATO induced cell apoptosis by decreasing levels of phosphorylated AKT (p-AKT) and activating caspase-3 and caspase-9. Importantly, BIM played a critical role in ATO-induced apoptosis. The inhibition of BIM expression prevented AKT dephosphorylation and inhibited caspase-3 activation during cell apoptosis. However, surprisingly, gene silencing of AKT or FOXO3A had little effect on BIM expression and phosphorylation. Moreover, the activation of caspase-3 by ATO treatment improved AKT dephosphorylation, not only by cleaving the regulatory A subunit of protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A), but also by increasing its activation. Furthermore, our data indicated that the c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNK) pathway is involved in the regulation of BIM expression.


We demonstrated the roles of BIM in ATO-induced apoptosis and the molecular mechanisms of BIM expression regulated by ATO during ovarian cancer cell apoptosis. Our findings suggest that BIM plays an important role in regulating p-AKT by activating caspase-3 and that BIM mediates the level of AKT phosphorylation to determine the threshold for overcoming cisplatin resistance in ovarian cancer cells.

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