Induction of Noxa sensitizes human colorectal cancer cells expressing Mcl-1 to the small-molecule Bcl-2/Bcl-x L inhibitor, ABT-737

Kenji Okumura, Shengbing Huang, Frank A. Sinicrope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Purpose: The intrinsic drug resistance of colorectal cancers is related in part to overexpression of prosurvival Bcl-2 family proteins. We determined the effects of ABT-737, a small-molecule inhibitor of Bcl-2/Bcl-x L but not Mcl-1, on apoptosis induction alone and in combination with CPT-11 and explored mechanisms underlying their cooperativity. Experimental Design: Human colorectal carcinoma cell lines (HCT116 wild-type and Bax' -/- HT-29, and RKO) were incubated with ABT-737 alone and combined with CPT-11 or bortezomib, and cell viability, caspase cleavage, and Annexin V labeling were measured. In drug-treated cell lines, protein-protein interactions were analyzed by immunoprecipitation. Lentiviral short hairpin RNA was used to knockdown Noxa expression. Results: ABT-737 induced apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner and its coadministration with the topoisomerase I inhibitor, CPT-11, resulted in a synergistic cytotoxic effect. Apoptosis induction by the drug combination was associated with enhanced caspase-8, caspase-9, and cas-pase-3 activation and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase cleavage that were completely abrogated in Bax knockout cells. ABT-737 unsequestered the BH3-only protein Bim from its complex with Bcl-x L or Bcl-2 and disrupted the interaction of Bcl-x L with Bak. CPT-11 treatment up-regulated Noxa expression, as did bortezomib, and enhanced Noxa/Mcl-1 complexes. CPT-11 also disrupted the Mcl-1/Bak interaction. Knockdown of Noxa using short hairpin RNA lentiviral constructs was shown to significantly attenuate the cytotoxic effect of CPT-11 or bortezomib combined with ABT-737 and inhibited caspase-3 cleavage. Conclusions: Induction of Noxa by CPT-11 or bortezomib can sensitize colorectal cancer cells expressing Mcl-1 to ABT-737. Up-regulation of Noxa may therefore represent an important strategy to enhance the therapeutic efficacy of ABT-737 against colorectal cancer and other solid tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8132-8142
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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