The Bcl-2 repertoire of mesothelioma spheroids underlies acquired apoptotic multicellular resistance

Lung Biology Center, San Francisco General Hospital, University of California-San Francisco, 1001 Potrero Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.
Cell Death & Disease (Impact Factor: 5.01). 06/2011; 2(6):e174. DOI: 10.1038/cddis.2011.58
Source: PubMed


Three-dimensional (3D) cultures are a valuable platform to study acquired multicellular apoptotic resistance of cancer. We used spheroids of cell lines and actual tumor to study resistance to the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib in mesothelioma, a highly chemoresistant tumor. Spheroids from mesothelioma cell lines acquired resistance to bortezomib by failing to upregulate Noxa, a pro-apoptotic sensitizer BH3-only protein that acts by displacing Bim, a pro-apoptotic Bax/Bak-activator protein. Surprisingly, despite their resistance, spheroids also upregulated Bim and thereby acquired sensitivity to ABT-737, an inhibitor of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 molecules. Analysis using BH3 profiling confirmed that spheroids acquired a dependence on anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins and were 'primed for death'. We then studied spheroids grown from actual mesothelioma. ABT-737 was active in spheroids grown from those tumors (5/7, ∼70%) with elevated levels of Bim. Using immunocytochemistry of tissue microarrays of 48 mesotheliomas, we found that most (33, 69%) expressed elevated Bim. In conclusion, mesothelioma cells in 3D alter the expression of Bcl-2 molecules, thereby acquiring both apoptotic resistance and sensitivity to Bcl-2 blockade. Mesothelioma tumors ex vivo also show sensitivity to Bcl-2 blockade that may depend on Bim, which is frequently elevated in mesothelioma. Therefore, mesothelioma, a highly resistant tumor, may have an intrinsic sensitivity to Bcl-2 blockade that can be exploited therapeutically.

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Available from: Nikita Kolhatkar
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    • "When combining the experimental drug with conventional drugs, the effect was potentiated and it was strongest with carboplatin (Figure 6A). Bortezomib has previously been demonstrated to have strong cytotoxic effects on adherent mesothelioma cells [19], [20], [58] and spheroids [59], [60]. However, in a phase II clinical trial, performed with MM patients treated with bortezomib as a single agent the outcome was insufficient [61]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Malignant mesothelioma cells have an epithelioid or sarcomatoid morphology, both of which may be present in the same tumor. The sarcomatoid phenotype is associated with worse prognosis and heterogeneity of mesothelioma cells may contribute to therapy resistance, which is often seen in mesothelioma. This study aimed to investigate differences in sensitivity between mesothelioma cell lines to anti-cancer drugs. We studied two novel drugs, selenite and bortezomib and compared their effect to four conventional drugs. We also investigated the immunoreactivity of potential predictive markers for drug sensitivity; Pgp, MRP-1, ERCC1, RRM1, TS, xCT and proteasome 20S subunit. We treated six mesothelioma cell lines with selenite, bortezomib, carboplatin, pemetrexed, doxorubicin or gemcitabine as single agents and in combinations. Viability was measured after 24 and 48 hours. Immunocytochemistry was used to detect predictive markers. As a single agent, selenite was effective on four out of six cell lines, and in combination with bortezomib yielded the greatest response in the studied mesothelioma cell lines. Cells with an epithelioid phenotype were generally more sensitive to the different drugs than the sarcomatoid cells. Extensive S-phase arrest was seen in pemetrexed-sensitive cell lines. MRP-1 predicted sensitivity of cell lines to treatment with carboplatin and xCT predicted pemetrexed effect. The observed heterogeneity in sensitivity of mesothelioma cell lines with different morphology highlights the need for more individualized therapy, requiring development of methods to predict drug sensitivity of individual tumors. Selenite and bortezomib showed a superior effect compared to conventional drugs, motivating clinical testing of these agents as future treatment regime components for patients with malignant mesothelioma.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2013 · PLoS ONE
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    • "Our previous studies identified a lack of Noxa upregulation in 3D mesothelioma spheroids as a cause of multicellular resistance to bortezomib [1]. To confirm if vorinostat restored Noxa upregulation, we analysed its protein and mRNA expression in M28 and REN cells treated with bortezomib, with or without vorinostat, and harvested at 4–6 h before the onset of apoptosis. "
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    ABSTRACT: When grown in 3D cultures as spheroids, mesothelioma cells acquire a multicellular resistance to apoptosis that resembles that of solid tumors. We have previously found that resistance to the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib in 3D can be explained by a lack of upregulation of Noxa, the pro-apoptotic BH3 sensitizer that acts via displacement of the Bak/Bax-activator BH3-only protein, Bim. We hypothesized that the histone deacetylase inhibitor vorinostat might reverse this block to Noxa upregulation in 3D. Indeed, we found that vorinostat effectively restored upregulation of Noxa protein and message and abolished multicellular resistance to bortezomib in the 3D spheroids. The ability of vorinostat to reverse resistance was ablated by knockdown of Noxa or Bim, confirming the essential role of the Noxa/Bim axis in the response to vorinostat. Addition of vorinostat similarly increased the apoptotic response to bortezomib in another 3D model, the tumor fragment spheroid, which is grown from human mesothelioma ex vivo. In addition to its benefit when used with bortezomib, vorinostat also enhanced the response to cisplatin plus pemetrexed, as shown in both 3D models. Our results using clinically relevant 3D models show that the manipulation of the core apoptotic repertoire may improve the chemosensitivity of mesothelioma. Whereas neither vorinostat nor bortezomib alone has been clinically effective in mesothelioma, vorinostat may undermine chemoresistance to bortezomib and to other therapies thereby providing a rationale for combinatorial strategies.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2012 · PLoS ONE
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    • "Thus, even though increased resistance to either cisplatin or the combination of bortezomib and TRAIL was observed when cells were grown as spheroids, this could be overcome by exposure to ABT-737 [108,109]. The expression of pro-apoptotic family members may also be changed, and the growth of melanoma cells in spheroids leads to reduced expression of NOXA [26] but increased expression of BIM confers sensitivity to ABT-737 [112]. "
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    ABSTRACT: BH3 mimetics such as ABT-737 and navitoclax bind to the BCL-2 family of proteins and induce apoptosis through the intrinsic apoptosis pathway. There is considerable variability in the sensitivity of different cells to these drugs. Understanding the molecular basis of this variability will help to determine which patients will benefit from these drugs. Furthermore, this understanding aids in the design of rational strategies to increase the sensitivity of cells which are otherwise resistant to BH3 mimetics. We discuss how the expression of BCL-2 family proteins regulates the sensitivity to ABT-737. One of these, MCL-1, has been widely described as contributing to resistance to ABT-737 which might suggest a poor response in patients with cancers that express levels of MCL-1. In some cases, resistance to ABT-737 conferred by MCL-1 is overcome by the expression of pro-apoptotic proteins that bind to apoptosis inhibitors such as MCL-1. However, the distribution of the pro-apoptotic proteins amongst the various apoptosis inhibitors also influences sensitivity to ABT-737. Furthermore, the expression of both pro- and anti-apoptotic proteins can change dynamically in response to exposure to ABT-737. Thus, there is significant complexity associated with predicting response to ABT-737. This provides a paradigm for the multiplicity of intricate factors that determine drug sensitivity which must be considered for the full implementation of personalized medicine.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2012 · Journal of Molecular Signaling
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