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Rapamycin sensitizes T-ALL cells to dexamethasone-induced apoptosis

Author(s): Gu Ling | Zhou Chenyan | Liu Huajun | Gao Ju | Li Qiang | Mu Dezhi | Ma Zhigui

Journal: Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research
ISSN 1756-9966

Volume: 29;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 150;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Abstract Background Glucocorticoid (GC) resistance is frequently seen in acute lymphoblastic leukemia of T-cell lineage (T-ALL). In this study we investigate the potential and mechanism of using rapamycin to restore the sensitivity of GC-resistant T-ALL cells to dexamethasone (Dex) treatment. Methods Cell proliferation was detected by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)- 2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis was used to analyze apoptosis and cell cycles. Western blot analysis was performed to test the expression of the downstream effector proteins of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), the cell cycle regulatory proteins, and apoptosis associated proteins. Results 10 nM rapamycin markedly increased GC sensitivity in GC-resistant T-ALL cells and this effect was mediated, at least in part, by inhibition of mTOR signaling pathway. Cell cycle arrest was associated with modulation of G1-S phase regulators. Both rapamycin and Dex can induce up-regulation of cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitors of p21 and p27 and co-treatment of rapamycin with Dex resulted in a synergistic induction of their expressions. Rapamycin did not obviously affect the expression of cyclin A, whereas Dex induced cyclin A expression. Rapamycin prevented Dex-induced expression of cyclin A. Rapamycin had a stronger inhibition of cyclin D1 expression than Dex. Rapamycin enhanced GC-induced apoptosis and this was not achieved by modulation of glucocorticoid receptor (GR) expression, but synergistically up-regulation of pro-apoptotic proteins like caspase-3, Bax, and Bim, and down-regulation of anti-apoptotic protein of Mcl-1. Conclusion Our data suggests that rapamycin can effectively reverse GC resistance in T-ALL and this effect is achieved by inducing cell cycles arrested at G0/G1 phase and activating the intrinsic apoptotic program. Therefore, combination of mTOR inhibitor rapamycin with GC containing protocol might be an attracting new therapeutic approach for GC resistant T-ALL patients.
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