Background: Gossypol, a naturally occurring polyphenolic compound has been identified as a small molecule inhibitor of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins. It induces apoptosis in a wide range of tumor cell lines and enhances chemotherapy- and radiation-induced cytotoxicity both in vitro and in vivo. Bcl-2 and related proteins are important inhibitors of apoptosis and frequently overexpressed in human tumors. Increased levels of these proteins confer radio- and chemoresistance and may be associated with poor prognosis. Consequently, inhibition of the anti-apoptotic functions of Bcl-2 family members represents a promising strategy to overcome resistance to anticancer therapies. Methods: We tested the effect of (-)-gossypol, also denominated as AT-101, radiation and the combination of both on apoptosis induction in human leukemic cells, Jurkat T and U937. Because activation of the SAPK/JNK pathway is important for apoptosis induction by many different stress stimuli, and Bcl-XL is known to inhibit activation of SAPK/JNK, we also investigated the role of this signaling cascade in AT-101-induced apoptosis using a pharmacologic and genetic approach. Results: AT-101 induced apoptosis in a time- and dose-dependent fashion, with ED 50values of 1.9 and 2.4 μM in Jurkat T and U937 cells, respectively. Isobolographic analysis revealed a synergistic interaction between AT-101 and radiation, which also appeared to be sequence-dependent. Like radiation, AT-101 activated SAPK/JNK which was blocked by the kinase inhibitor SP600125. In cells overexpressing a dominant-negative mutant of c-Jun, AT-101-induced apoptosis was significantly reduced. Conclusion: Our data show that AT-101 strongly enhances radiation-induced apoptosis in human leukemic cells and indicate a requirement for the SAPK/JNK pathway in AT-101-induced apoptosis. This type of apoptosis modulation may overcome treatment resistance and lead to the development of new effective combination therapies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging