BH3-only protein mimetic obatoclax sensitizes cholangiocarcinoma cells to Apo2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis

Justin L. Mott, Steve F. Bronk, Ruben A. Mesa, Scott H. Kaufmann, Gregory J. Gores

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37 Scopus citations


Human cholangiocarcinomas evade apoptosis by overexpression of Mcl-1. The drug obatoclax (GX15-070) inhibits antiapoptotic members of the Bcl-2 family including Mcl-1. The purpose of this study is to determine if obatoclax sensitizes human cholangiocarcinoma cells to apoptosis. The human cholangiocarcinoma cell lines, KMCH, KMBC, and TFK, were employed for these studies. Protein expression was assessed by immunoblot and protein-protein interactions detected by coprecipitation of the polypeptide of interest with S-tagged Mcl-1. Activation of Bak and Bax was observed by immunocytochemistry with conformation-specific antisera. Obatoclax induced minimal apoptosis alone; however, it increased apoptosis 3-to 13-fold in all three cancer cell lines when combined with Apo2L/tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL). Obatoclax did not alter cellular expression of Bid, Bim, Puma, Noxa, Bak, Bax, Mcl-1, or cFLIP. Mcl-1 binding to Bak was readily identified in untreated cells, and this association was disrupted by treating the cells with obatoclax. Additionally, Bim binding to Mcl-1 was markedly decreased by obatoclax treatment. We also identified alterations in Bak and Bax conformation following treatment with obatoclax plus Apo2L/TRAIL but not with either Apo2L/TRAIL or obatoclax alone. In conclusion, obatoclax releases Bak and Bim from Mcl-1 and sensitizes human cholangiocarcinoma cells to Apo2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Obatoclax is a potentially promising adjunctive agent for the treatment of this cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2339-2347
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular cancer therapeutics
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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