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Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2014 Jul;74(1):167-76. doi: 10.1007/s00280-014-2451-7. Epub 2014 May 20.

Bortezomib induces protective autophagy through AMP-activated protein kinase activation in cultured pancreatic and colorectal cancer cells.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Drum Tower Clinical Medical College of Nanjing Medical University, Zhongshan Road 321, Nanjing, 210008, People's Republic of China.



Bortezomib, a selective and potent inhibitor of the proteasome, has demonstrated broad anti-tumor activities in many malignancies. In the current study, we aimed to understand the potential resistance factor of bortezomib in cultured pancreatic and colorectal cancer cells.


We observed that bortezomib-induced protective autophagy in cultured PANC-1 pancreatic cancer cells and HT-29 colorectal cancer cells. Inhibition of autophagy by 3-methyladenine (3-MA) and chloroquine enhanced bortezomib-induced apoptosis and cytotoxicity in both PANC-1 and HT-29 cells. Activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) was required for bortezomib-induced autophagy induction in PANC-1 and HT-29 cells, and AMPK inhibition by its inhibitor compound C (CC) or RNAi-depletion suppressed bortezomib-induced autophagy, while dramatically enhancing cancer cell apoptosis/cytotoxicity. Meanwhile, significant AMPK activation and autophagy induction were observed after bortezomib stimulation in primary cultured pancreatic cancer cells derived from a patient's tumor tissue. Both CC and 3-MA facilitated bortezomib-induced cytotoxicity in primary cultured pancreatic cancer cells.


In conclusion, our data here suggest that bortezomib induces protective autophagy in pancreatic and colorectal cancer cells through activating AMPK-Ulk1 signalings. AMPK or autophagy inhibitors could be developed as an adjunct or chemo-sensitizer for bortezomib.

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