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Cancer Res. 2013 Mar 1;73(5):1460-9. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-2876. Epub 2013 Jan 9.

Cisplatin hypersensitivity of testicular germ cell tumors is determined by high constitutive Noxa levels mediated by Oct-4.

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Dr. Margarete Fischer-Bosch Institute of Clinical Pharmacology and University of Tuebingen, Auerbachstrasse 112, Stuttgart, Germany.


Testicular germ cell tumors (TGCT) are considered a paradigm of chemosensitive tumors. Embryonal carcinoma cells represent the pluripotent entity of TGCTs and are characterized by expression of Oct-4, a key regulator of pluripotency and a determinant of their inherent hypersensitivity to cisplatin. However, the mechanisms underlying this Oct-4-mediated sensitivity are poorly understood. We previously showed that p53 is a major player in cisplatin hypersensitivity and therefore investigated whether Oct-4 may directly affect p53 activity. Despite a significant decrease in sensitivity, depletion of Oct-4 neither did alter cisplatin-induced transactivation of p53 target genes nor its subcellular localization. These data indicate that, rather than directly modulating p53 activity, Oct-4 provides a cellular context that augments the proapoptotic activity of p53. As mitochondrial priming by the Bcl-2 family is a known determinant of chemosensitivity, we compared the constitutive levels of these proteins in Oct-4-positive and -depleted cells. We identified Noxa as the only Bcl-2 family protein to be highly correlated with Oct-4 status and cisplatin sensitivity. Compared with differentiated cells, constitutive Noxa levels were significantly higher in Oct-4-positive cell lines and cancer patient samples. Furthermore, RNA interference-mediated knockdown of Oct-4 resulted in reduced Noxa transcript, in an almost complete loss of constitutive Noxa protein and decreased cisplatin hypersensitivity to a similar extent as did Noxa depletion. In conclusion, our study indicates that Noxa is a central determinant of hypersensitivity to cisplatin. Oct-4-dependent high constitutive levels of this BH3-only protein prime embryonal carcinoma cells to undergo rapid and massive apoptosis in response to p53 activation.

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