International immunopharmacology

JNK activation is required for TNFα-induced apoptosis in human hepatocarcinoma cells.

PMID 23751896


A frequent distinctive feature of tumors, hepatocellular carcinomas included, is resistance to apoptosis induced by a variety of agents, among which the pleiotropic cytokine tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF). Compared to other cell types, hepatocytes and hepatoma-derived cell lines are poorly susceptible to TNF-induced apoptosis, which is largely ascribed to activation of the prosurvival transcription factor NF-κB and can be overcome by associating TNF to low doses of protein synthesis inhibitors or other drugs. This study analyses the molecular mechanisms by which TNF, in combination with cycloheximide (CHX), induces apoptosis in human hepatoma-derived Huh7 cells, focusing on the role played by JNK. Huh7 cell cultures were treated with TNF + CHX in the presence or in the absence of the pancaspase inhibitor zVADfmk or of the JNK inhibitor SP600125 as well as after suppression of JNK expression by RNAi. Apoptosis was assessed both by light microscopy and by flow cytometry, JNK and caspase activation by western blotting and/or enzymatic assay. TNF + CHX-induced death of Huh7 cells involved JNK activation since it was partially prevented by suppressing JNK activity or expression. Moreover, apoptosis was significantly reduced also by zVADfmk, while SP600125 and zVADfmk combined totally abrogated cell death in an additive fashion. These results demonstrate a causal role for JNK and caspases in TNF+CHX-induced apoptosis of Huh7 human hepatoma cells. Therefore, strategies aimed at enhancing both pathways should provide a profitable basis to overcome the resistance of hepatocarcinoma cells to TNF-dependent apoptosis.