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Mol Cancer. 2014 Apr 30;13:98. doi: 10.1186/1476-4598-13-98.

The Bcl-2/xL inhibitor ABT-263 increases the stability of Mcl-1 mRNA and protein in hepatocellular carcinoma cells.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of Basic Medical Sciences, Third Military Medical University, 30 Gaotanyan, Chongqing 400038, China.



Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the major causes of mortality. ABT-263 is a newly synthesized, orally available Bcl-2/xL inhibitor that shows promising efficacy in HCC therapy. ABT-263 inhibits the anti-apoptotic activity of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL, but not Mcl-1. Previous reports have shown that ABT-263 upregulates Mcl-1 in various cancer cells, which contributes to ABT-263 resistance in cancer therapy. However, the associated mechanisms are not well known.


Western blot, RNAi and CCK-8 assays were used to investigate the relationship between Mcl-1 upregulation and ABT-263 sensitivity in HCC cells. Real-time PCR and Western blot were used to detect Mcl-1 mRNA and protein levels. Luciferase reporter assay and RNA synthesis inhibition assay were adopted to analyze the mechanism of Mcl-1 mRNA upregulation. Western blot and the inhibition assays for protein synthesis and proteasome were used to explore the mechanisms of ABT-263-enhanced Mcl-1 protein stability. Trypan blue exclusion assay and flow cytometry were used to examine cell death and apoptosis.


ABT-263 upregulated Mcl-1 mRNA and protein levels in HCC cells, which contributes to ABT-263 resistance. ABT-263 increased the mRNA level of Mcl-1 in HCC cells by enhancing the mRNA stability without influencing its transcription. Furthermore, ABT-263 increased the protein stability of Mcl-1 through promoting ERK- and JNK-induced phosphorylation of Mcl-1Thr163 and increasing the Akt-mediated inactivation of GSK-3β. Additionally, the inhibitors of ERK, JNK or Akt sensitized ABT-263-induced apoptosis in HCC cells.


ABT-263 increases Mcl-1 stability at both mRNA and protein levels in HCC cells. Inhibition of ERK, JNK or Akt activity sensitizes ABT-263-induced apoptosis. This study may provide novel insights into the Bcl-2-targeted cancer therapeutics.

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