Heme Oxygenase-1 Promotes Survival of Renal Cancer Cells through Modulation of Apoptosis- and Autophagy-regulating Molecules
The cytoprotective enzyme heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) is often overexpressed in different types of cancers and promotes cancer progression. We have recently shown that the Ras-Raf-ERK pathway induces HO-1 to promote survival of renal cancer cells. Here, we examined the possible mechanisms underlying HO-1-mediated cell survival. Considering the growing evidence about the significance of apoptosis and autophagy in cancer, we tried to investigate how HO-1 controls these events to regulate survival of cancer cells. Rapamycin (RAPA) and sorafenib, two commonly used drugs for renal cancer treatment, were found to induce HO-1 expression in renal cancer cells Caki-1 and 786-O; and the apoptotic effect of these drugs was markedly enhanced upon HO-1 knockdown. Overexpression of HO-1 protected the cells from RAPA- and sorafenib-induced apoptosis and also averted drug-mediated inhibition of cell proliferation. HO-1 induced the expression of anti-apoptotic Bcl-xL and decreased the expression of autophagic proteins Beclin-1 and LC3B-II; while knockdown of HO-1 down-regulated Bcl-xL and markedly increased LC3B-II. Moreover, HO-1 promoted the association of Beclin-1 with Bcl-xL and Rubicon, a novel negative regulator of autophagy. Drug-induced dissociation of Beclin-1 from Rubicon and the induction of autophagy were also inhibited by HO-1. Together, our data signify that HO-1 is up-regulated in renal cancer cells as a survival strategy against chemotherapeutic drugs and promotes growth of tumor cells by inhibiting both apoptosis and autophagy. Thus, application of chemotherapeutic drugs along with HO-1 inhibitor may elevate therapeutic efficiency by reducing the cytoprotective effects of HO-1 and by simultaneous induction of both apoptosis and autophagy.