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Cancer Lett. 2015 Sep 28;366(1):32-43. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2015.05.020. Epub 2015 May 28.

Identification of a novel synergistic induction of cell death by Smac mimetic and HDAC inhibitors in acute myeloid leukemia cells.

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Institute for Experimental Cancer Research in Pediatrics, Goethe-University, Komturstr. 3a, Frankfurt 60528, Germany.
Institute for Experimental Cancer Research in Pediatrics, Goethe-University, Komturstr. 3a, Frankfurt 60528, Germany; German Cancer Consortium (DKTK), Heidelberg, Germany; German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany. Electronic address:


Inhibitor of Apoptosis (IAP) proteins are expressed at high levels in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and contribute to resistance to programmed cell death. Here, we report that inhibition of IAP proteins by the small-molecule Smac mimetic BV6 acts together with histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors (HDACIs) such as MS275 or SAHA to trigger cell death in AML cell lines in a synergistic manner, as underscored by calculation of combination index (CI). Also, BV6 and HDACIs cooperate to trigger DNA fragmentation, a marker of apoptotic cell death, and to suppress long-term clonogenic survival of AML cells. In contrast, equimolar concentrations of BV6 and MS275 or SAHA do not synergize to elicit cell death in normal peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs), emphasizing some tumor cell selectivity of this combination treatment. Addition of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF)α-blocking antibody Enbrel significantly reduces BV6/MS275-induced cell death in the majority of AML cell lines, indicating that autocrine/paracrine TNFα signaling contributes to cell death. Remarkably, the broad-range caspase inhibitor N-benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp-fluoromethylketone (zVAD.fmk) fails to rescue MV4-11, Molm13 and OCI-AML3 cells and even enhances BV6/MS275-mediated cell death, whereas zVAD.fmk reduces BV6/MS275-induced cell death in NB4 cells. Annexin-V/propidium iodide (PI) double staining reveals that BV6/MS275 cotreatment predominately increases the percentage of double-positive cells. Of note, the Receptor-Interacting Protein (RIP)1 inhibitor necrostatin-1 (Nec-1) or the Mixed Lineage Kinase Domain-Like protein (MLKL) inhibitor necrosulfonamide (NSA) significantly reduce BV6/MS275-induced cell death in the presence of zVAD.fmk, suggesting that BV6/MS275 cotreatment triggers necroptosis when caspases are inhibited. Thus, BV6 acts in concert with HDACIs to induce cell death in AML cells and can bypass apoptosis resistance, at least in several AML cell lines, by engaging necroptosis as an alternative route of regulated cell death. The identification of a novel synergism of BV6 and HDACIs has important implications for the development of new treatment strategies for AML.


Apoptosis; Leukemia; Necroptosis; Smac

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