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Theranostics. 2019 Jul 9;9(17):4909-4922. doi: 10.7150/thno.33758. eCollection 2019.

Modulation of Respiration and Mitochondrial Dynamics by SMAC-Mimetics for Combination Therapy in Chemoresistant Cancer.

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Department of Pediatrics II, Medical University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.
Institute of Legal Medicine and Core Facility Metabolomics, Medical University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.
Department of Pediatrics I, Medical University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.


Inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAP) are cell death regulators that bind caspases and interfere with apoptotic signalling via death receptors or intrinsic cell death pathways. BIRC4/XIAP is the most potent anti-apoptotic IAP-member and it physically interacts with caspases via its BIR2 and its BIR3 domain. These domains are also critical for the interaction with mitochondria-derived SMAC/Diablo and with the IAP protein survivin. Survivin is frequently overexpressed in neuroblastoma due to a gain of 17q and we have demonstrated that survivin confers resistance to chemotherapeutic agents and reprograms metabolism of neuroblastoma cells towards glycolysis. As regulator of mitochondrial fission and autophagy survivin acts at the crossroads of mitochondrial architecture, autophagy and cellular energy metabolism. Methods: We tested the effect of SMAC-mimetics on the XIAP/survivin axis as modulator of cellular metabolism analysing mitochondrial morphology, metabolic intermediates and cellular survival. Finally, the impact of the combined treatment was evaluated in a xenograft neuroblastoma mouse model assessing the therapy effect on tumour size and volume. Results: Here we demonstrated that XIAP sequesters significant amounts of survivin within the cell that can be mobilized by so called SMAC-mimetics. SMAC-mimetics are drugs that are designed to bind with high affinity to XIAP-BIR2 / BIR3 domains to release caspases and re-sensitize XIAP-overexpressing tumors for chemotherapy. However, SMAC-mimetic treatment releases also survivin from XIAP and thereby induces mitochondrial fragmentation, prevents ROS accumulation and leads to the Warburg effect, an unwanted side effect of this therapy. Importantly, cells that drift into a highly glycolytic state due to SMAC-mimetic treatment become also highly sensitive to non-genotoxic treatment with glycolysis inhibitors such as 2-Deoxy-D-glucose (2DG) in vitro and in vivo. Conclusion: A combinational therapy of non-genotoxic SMAC-mimetics and glycolysis-inhibitors overcomes IAP-mediated cell survival in cancer and provides therefore an attractive usage of SMAC-mimetics.


BIRC4/XIAP; BIRC5/survivin; SMAC-mimetics; Warburg

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interest exists.

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