November 5, 2018

Lincoln et al. published in Cell Death & Disease

Sensitization of glioblastoma cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis by IAP- and Bcl-2 antagonism

Lincoln FA, Imig D, Boccellato C, Juric V, Noonan J, Kontermann RE, Allgöwer F, Murphy BM, Rehm M.


Due to the lack of effective treatments for glioblastoma (GBM), we here studied the responsiveness of GBM cell lines to the combination of death ligand, TRAIL and the IAP antagonist, TL32711 (Birinapant). Responses were highly heterogeneous, with synergistic apoptosis as well as treatment resistance observed. Caspase-8 and Bid, together with caspase-3, form a nonlinear signalling hub that efficiently induced apoptosis in responder cell lines. Cells resistant to TRAIL/TL32711 expressed low amounts of procaspase-8 and Bid and poorly activated caspase-3. We therefore hypothesised that improving caspase-8 activation or sensitising mitochondria to truncated Bid (tBid) could convert non-responder GBM cell lines to responders. Mathematical simulations of both strategies predicted mitochondrial sensitization to tBid would outperform enhancing caspase-8 activation. Indeed, antagonising Bcl-2 by ABT-199 allowed TRAIL/TL32711 response synergies to manifest in otherwise TRAIL resistant cell lines. These findings were further corroborated in experiments with a translationally relevant hexavalent TRAIL variant. Our study therefore demonstrates that a high caspase-8/Bid signature is associated with synergistic TRAIL/TL32711-induced apoptosis in GBM cells and outlines Bcl-2 antagonism as a highly potent intervention to sensitize highly TRAIL-resistant GBM cells to TRAIL/TL32711 combination treatment.

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