Lithium exerts neuroprotective actions that involve the inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β). Otherwise, recent studies suggest that sustained GSK-3β inhibition is a hallmark of tumorigenesis. In this context, the present study was undertaken to examine whether lithium modulated cancer cell sensitivity to apoptosis induced by chemotherapy agents. We observed that, in different human cancer cell lines, lithium significantly reduced etoposide- and camptothecin-induced apoptosis. In HepG2 cells, lithium repressed drug induction of CD95 expression and clustering at the cell surface as well as caspase-8 activation. Lithium acted through deregulation of GSK-3β signaling since (1) it provoked a rapid and sustained phosphorylation of GSK-3β on the inhibitory serine 9 residue; (2) the GSK-3β inhibitor SB-415286 mimicked lithium effects by repressing drug-induced apoptosis and CD95 membrane expression; and (3) lithium promoted the disruption of nuclear GSK-3β/p53 complexes. Moreover, the overexpression of an inactivated GSK-3β mutant counteracted the stimulatory effects of etoposide and camptothecin on a luciferase reporter plasmid driven by a p53-responsive sequence from the CD95 gene. In conclusion, we provide the first evidence that lithium confers resistance to apoptosis in cancer cells through GSK-3β inhibition and subsequent repression of CD95 gene expression. Our study also highlights the concerted action of GSK-3β and p53 on CD95 gene expression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology