Cancer letters

GDC-0941 enhances the lysosomal compartment via TFEB and primes glioblastoma cells to lysosomal membrane permeabilization and cell death.

PMID 23000516


Since phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitors are primarily cytostatic against glioblastoma, we searched for new drug combinations. Here, we discover that the PI3K inhibitor GDC-0941 acts in concert with the natural compound B10, a glycosylated derivative of betulinic acid, to induce cell death in glioblastoma cells. Importantly, parallel experiments in primary glioblastoma cultures similarly show that GDC-0941 and B10 cooperate to trigger cell death, underscoring the clinical relevance of this finding. Molecular studies revealed that treatment with GDC-0941 stimulates the expression and nuclear translocation of Transcription Factor EB (TFEB), a master regulator of lysosomal biogenesis, the lysosomal membrane marker LAMP-1 and the mature form of cathepsin B. Also, GDC-0941 triggers a time-dependent increase of the lysosomal compartment in a TFEB-dependent manner, since knockdown of TFEB significantly reduces this GDC-0941-stimulated lysosomal enhancement. Importantly, GDC-0941 cooperates with B10 to trigger lysosomal membrane permeabilization, leading to increased activation of Bax, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP), caspase-3 activation and cell death. Addition of the cathepsin B inhibitor CA-074me reduces Bax activation, loss of MMP, caspase-3 activation and cell death upon treatment with GDC-0941/B10. By comparison, knockdown of caspase-3 or the broad-range caspase inhibitor zVAD.fmk inhibits GDC-0941/B10-induced DNA fragmentation, but does not prevent cell death, thus pointing to both caspase-dependent and -independent pathways. By identifying the combination of GDC-0941 and B10 as a new, potent strategy to trigger cell death in glioblastoma cells, our findings have important implications for the development of novel treatment approaches for glioblastoma.

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Betulinic acid, analytical standard