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Clin Cancer Res. 2012 Jun 15;18(12):3316-27. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-11-2232. Epub 2012 May 2.

Role of Apollon in human melanoma resistance to antitumor agents that activate the intrinsic or the extrinsic apoptosis pathways.

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Human Tumors Immunobiology Unit, Molecular Pharmacology Unit, Department of Experimental Oncology and Molecular Medicine, Medical Oncology Unit 3, Department of Medicine, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori and University of Milan, Italy.



To assess the role of Apollon in melanoma resistance to intrinsic and extrinsic pathways of apoptosis and to identify strategies to reduce its expression.


Apollon expression was assessed in melanoma cells in vitro and in vivo. Apollon modulation and melanoma apoptosis were evaluated by Western blot and/or flow cytometry in response to cytotoxic drugs, mitogen-activated protein/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (MEK)-, BRAF(V600E)-, and mTOR-specific inhibitors, TRAIL and anti-HLA class II monoclonal antibodies (mAb). Mitochondrial depolarization, caspase activation, apoptosis assays, and gene expression profiling were used to test effects of Apollon silencing, by siRNA, on melanoma response to antitumor agents.


Apollon was constitutively expressed by melanoma cells, in vitro and in vivo, and at higher levels than in benign melanocytic lesions. Melanoma apoptosis correlated significantly with Apollon protein downmodulation in response to cytotoxic drugs, MEK, or BRAF(V600E)-specific inhibitors. Combinatorial treatment with MEK and mTOR inhibitors and HLA class II ligation, by a specific mAb, promoted Apollon downmodulation and enhanced melanoma apoptosis. Apollon downmodulation induced by antitumor agents was caspase independent, but proteasome dependent. Knockdown of Apollon, by siRNA, triggered apoptosis and/or significantly enhanced melanoma cell death in response to cytotoxic drugs, MEK- and BRAF(V600E)-specific inhibitors, and soluble or membrane-bound TRAIL. Apollon silencing promoted mitochondrial depolarization and caspase-2, caspase-8, caspase-9, and caspase-3 activation in response to different antitumor agents and altered the profile of genes modulated by MEK or BRAF(V600E)-specific inhibitors.


Targeting of Apollon may significantly improve melanoma cell death in response to antitumor agents that trigger the intrinsic or the extrinsic apoptosis pathways.

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