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J Natl Cancer Inst. 2012 Oct 3;104(19):1470-84. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djs377. Epub 2012 Sep 13.

Protumorigenic activity of plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 through an antiapoptotic function.

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Division of Hematology-Oncology, Department of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.



Plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) is a protease inhibitor but is paradoxically associated with poor outcomes in cancer patients. However, the mechanisms of its effects on tumor cells have not been explored.


Endogenous PAI-1 in human tumor cell lines (HT-1080, A549, HCT-116, and MDA-MB-231) was suppressed by small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and PAI-039, a small molecule inhibitor of PAI-1, and the effects on apoptosis were examined. Tumorigenicity of PAI-1 knockdown (KD) tumor cells was examined in immunodeficient PAI-1 wild-type and knockout (KO) mice (9-15 per group), and event-free survival was analyzed by the Kaplan-Meier method. The effect of PAI-1 suppression on HT-1080 xenotransplanted tumors was evaluated for cell proliferation, apoptosis, and angiogenesis. All statistical tests were two-sided.


Genetic and pharmacological inhibition of PAI-1 in the four tumor cell lines increased spontaneous apoptosis (mean fold increase relative to control: HT-1080, siRNA#1, mean = 4.0, 95% CI = 2.6 to 5.3, P < .001; siRNA#2, mean = 2.6, 95% CI = 2.4 to 2.9, P < .001, Student t test), which was blocked in the presence of recombinant PAI-1, a caspase-8 inhibitor, or Fas/FasL neutralizing antibodies and was partially attenuated by a plasmin inhibitor-aprotinin. PAI-1 KO mice implanted with PAI-1 KD HT-1080 cells had decreased tumorigenesis and prolonged survival compared with control mice (P = .002, log-rank test), and their tumors exhibited decreased cell proliferation and angiogenesis and increased apoptosis. Furthermore, five of 15 PAI-1 KO mice implanted with PAI-1 KD HT-1080 cells never developed tumors.


These data suggest that PAI-1 exerts a protective effect against tumor cell apoptosis by a mechanism that, in part, involves plasmin activation and inhibition of Fas/Fas-L-mediated apoptosis and may be a promising therapeutic target.

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