Send to

Choose Destination
Biol Chem. 2010 May;391(5):519-31. doi: 10.1515/BC.2010.050.

Differential role of cathepsins B and L in autophagy-associated cell death induced by arsenic trioxide in U87 human glioblastoma cells.

Author information

Department of Genetic Toxicology and Cancer Biology, National Institute of Biology, Ljubljana, Slovenia. <>


Arsenic trioxide (arsenite) was the first chemotherapeutic drug to be described and is now being rediscovered in cancer treatment, including glioblastoma multiforme. Arsenite toxicity triggers autophagy in cancer cells, although final stages of the process involve executive caspases, suggesting an interplay between autophagic and apoptotic pathways that awaits to be explained at a molecular level. We evaluated the contribution of the lysosomal cathepsins (Cat) L and B, which are upregulated in glioblastomas, in the mechanism of arsenite toxicity in human glioblastoma cells. Arsenite treatment induced autophagosome formation and permeabilization of mitochondria, followed by caspase 3/7-mediated apoptosis. The autophagy inhibitor 3-methyladenine protected from arsenite toxicity, whereas bafilomycin A1 did not. Furthermore, arsenite significantly decreased CatB levels and selectively inhibited its cellular and recombinant protein activity, while not affecting CatL. However, downregulation of CatL greatly enhanced apoptosis by arsenite. Our results show that arsenite toxicity involves a complex interplay between autophagy and apoptosis in human glioblastoma cells and is associated with inhibition of CatB, and that this toxicity is highly exacerbated by simultaneous CatL inhibition. The latter points to a synergy that could be used in clinical treatment to lower the therapeutic dose, thus avoiding the toxic side effects of arsenite in glioblastoma management.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Sheridan PubFactory
Loading ...
Support Center