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Cell death & disease

Bortezomib enhances cancer cell death by blocking the autophagic flux through stimulating ERK phosphorylation.


PMID 25375375

Abstract

The antitumor activity of an inhibitor of 26S proteasome bortezomib (Velcade) has been observed in various malignancies, including colon cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer. Bortezomib has been proposed to stimulate autophagy, but scientific observations did not always support this. Interactions between ERK activity and autophagy are complex and not completely clear. Autophagy proteins have recently been shown to regulate the functions of ERK, and ERK activation has been found to induce autophagy. On the other hand, sustained activation of ERK has also been shown to inhibit the maturation step of the autophagy process. In this study, we sought to identify the mechanism of autophagy regulation in cancer cells treated with bortezomib. Our results indicate that bortezomib blocked the autophagic flux without inhibiting the fusion of the autophagosome and lysosome. In ovarian cancer, as well as endometrial cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma cells, bortezomib inhibited protein degradation in lysosomes by suppressing cathepsins, which requires the participation of ERK phosphorylation, but not JNK or p38. Our findings that ERK phosphorylation reduced cathepsins further explain how ERK phosphorylation inhibits the autophagic flux. In conclusion, bortezomib may induce ERK phosphorylation to suppress cathepsin B and inhibit the catalytic process of autophagy in ovarian cancer and other solid tumors. The inhibition of cisplatin-induced autophagy by bortezomib can enhance chemotherapy efficacy in ovarian cancer. As we also found that bortezomib blocks the autophagic flux in other cancers, the synergistic cytotoxic effect of bortezomib by abolishing chemotherapy-related autophagy may help us develop strategies of combination therapies for multiple cancers.