Author(s): Keane MM, Ettenberg SA, Nau MM, Russell EK, Lipkowitz S
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Abstract Expression and function of the TRAIL apoptotic pathway was investigated in normal and malignant breast epithelial cells. Glutathione-S-transferase (GST)-TRAIL extracellular domain fusion proteins were produced to analyze TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Only GST-TRAIL constructs containing regions homologous to the Fas self-association and ligand binding domains could induce apoptosis. GST-TRAIL induced significant (>90\%) apoptosis in just one of eight normal and one of eight malignant breast cell lines. All other lines were relatively resistant to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Activating TRAIL receptors DR4 and DR5 were expressed in all normal and malignant breast cell lines. The inhibitory receptor TRID was highly expressed in one of four normal and two of seven malignant breast cell lines. DR4, DR5, or TRID expression did not correlate with sensitivity to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Incubation of cell lines with doxorubicin or 5-fluorouracil significantly augmented TRAIL-induced apoptosis in most breast cell lines. By fractional inhibition analysis, the toxicity of the combination of TRAIL and doxorubicin or 5-fluorouracil was synergistic compared with either agent alone. In contrast, melphalan and paclitaxel augmented TRAIL-induced apoptosis in few cell lines, and methotrexate did not augment it in any cell line. Augmentation of TRAIL-induced apoptosis by doxorubicin or 5-fluorouracil was mediated through caspase activation. This was evidenced by the fact that chemotherapy agents that synergized with TRAIL (e.g., doxorubicin) themselves caused cleavage of caspase-3 and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), and their toxicity was blocked by the caspase inhibitor Z-Val-Ala-Asp(OMe)-CH2 (ZVAD-fmk). The combination of TRAIL and doxorubicin caused significantly greater caspase-3 and PARP cleavage, and the combined toxicity also was inhibited by ZVAD-fmk. In contrast, chemotherapy agents that did not augment TRAIL-induced apoptosis (e.g., methotrexate) caused minimal caspase-3 and PARP cleavage by themselves, and their toxicity was not inhibited by ZVAD-fmk. These drugs also did not increase caspase-3 or PARP cleavage when combined with TRAIL. In summary, few breast cell lines are sensitive to TRAIL-induced apoptosis, and no difference in sensitivity is found between normal and malignant cell lines. Treatment with chemotherapy provides an approach to sensitize breast cancer cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis.
This article was published in Cancer Res
and referenced in Journal of Genetic Syndromes & Gene Therapy