Oncology reports

Ursodeoxycholic acid effectively kills drug-resistant gastric cancer cells through induction of autophagic death.

PMID 26133914


Carcinoma cells that have acquired drug resistance often exhibit cross-resistance to various other cytotoxic stimuli. Here, we investigated the effects of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), a gastrointestinal tumor-suppressor, on a cisplatin‑resistant SNU601 gastric cancer subline (SNU601/R). While other anticancer drugs, including L-OHP, etoposide, and death ligand TRAIL, had minimal effects on the viability of these resistant cells, they were sensitive to UDCA. The UDCA‑induced reduction in the viability of the SNU601/R cells was accomplished through autophagy while the primary means of cell death in the parental SNU601 cells (SNU601/WT) was apoptosis. Previously, we demonstrated that the UDCA-triggered apoptosis of gastric cancer cells was regulated by a cell surface death receptor, TRAIL-R2/DR5, which was upregulated and re-distributed on lipid rafts. The UDCA stimulation of TRAIL-R2/DR5 also occurred in the SNU601/R cells despite the lack of apoptosis. In the present study, we found that CD95/Fas, another cell surface death receptor, was also translocated into lipid rafts in response to UDCA although it was not involved in the decrease in cell viability. Specifically, raft relocalization of CD95/Fas was triggered by UDCA in the SNU601/WT cells in which apoptosis occurred, but not in the SNU601/R cells where autophagic death occurred. Notably, UDCA reduced ATG5 levels, an essential component of autophagy, in the SNU601/WT, but not in the SNU601/R cell line. Moreover, in CD95/Fas-silenced SNU601/WT cells, UDCA did not decrease ATG5 levels and induced autophagic cell death rather than apoptosis. These results imply that raft‑distributed CD95/Fas may support UDCA-induced apoptosis via downregulation of ATG5 levels, preventing the autophagic pathway. Taken together, these results suggest that UDCA induces both apoptotic and autophagic cell death depending on the intracellular signaling environment, thereby conferring the advantage to overcome drug resistance through apoptotic defects.