Integrated regulation of autophagy and apoptosis by EEF2K controls cellular fate and modulates the efficacy of curcumin and velcade against tumor cells.
ABSTRACT: Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress induces both autophagy and apoptosis yet the molecular mechanisms and pathways underlying the regulation of these two cellular processes in cells undergoing ER stress remain less clear. We report here that eukaryotic elongation factor-2 kinase (EEF2K) is a critical controller of the ER stress-induced autophagy and apoptosis in tumor cells. DDIT4, a stress-induced protein, was required for transducing the signal for activation of EEF2K under ER stress. We further showed that phosphorylation of EEF2K at Ser398 was essential for induction of autophagy, while phosphorylation of the kinase at Ser366 and Ser78 exerted an inhibitory effect on autophagy. Suppression of the ER stress-activated autophagy via silencing of EEF2K aggravated ER stress and promoted apoptotic cell death in tumor cells. Moreover, inhibiting EEF2K by either RNAi or NH125, a small molecule inhibitor of the enzyme, rendered tumor cells more sensitive to curcumin and velcade, two anticancer agents that possess ER stress-inducing action. Our study indicated that the DDIT4-EEF2K pathway was essential for inducing autophagy and for determining the fate of tumor cells under ER stress, and suggested that inhibiting the EEF2K-mediated autophagy can deteriorate ER stress and lead to a greater apoptotic response, thereby potentiating the efficacy of the ER stress-inducing agents against cancer.
Project description:Many recent studies have demonstrated the involvement of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in the development of cardiac diseases and have suggested that modulation of ER stress response could be cardioprotective. Previously, we demonstrated that the deacetylase Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) attenuates ER stress response and promotes cardiomyocyte survival. Here, we investigated whether and how autophagy plays a role in SIRT1-afforded cardioprotection against ER stress. The results revealed that protective autophagy was initiated before cell death in response to tunicamycin (TN)-induced ER stress in cardiac cells. SIRT1 inhibition decreased ER stress-induced autophagy, whereas its activation enhanced autophagy. In response to TN- or isoproterenol-induced ER stress, mice deficient for SIRT1 exhibited suppressed autophagy along with exacerbated cardiac dysfunction. At the molecular level, we found that in response to ER stress (i) the extinction of eEF2 or its kinase eEF2K not only reduced autophagy but further activated cell death, (ii) inhibition of SIRT1 inhibited the phosphorylation of eEF2, (iii) eIF2? co-immunoprecipitated with eEF2K, and (iv) knockdown of eIF2? reduced the phosphorylation of eEF2. Our results indicate that in response to ER stress, SIRT1 activation promotes cardiomyocyte survival by enhancing autophagy at least through activation of the eEF2K/eEF2 pathway.
Project description:Background:Triple-negative breast cancers (TNBCs) are initially responsive to chemotherapy, but most recurrent TNBCs develop resistance. Autophagy is believed to play dual roles in cancer and might contribute to chemoresistance. In this study, we aimed to investigate the role of autophagy and its regulator, eukaryotic elongation factor 2 kinase (eEF2K), in determining the biological nature of TNBC. Methods:We used in vitro models of TNBC, namely, paclitaxel-resistant cell lines derived from sensitive cell lines. Various approaches to measuring autophagy flux were applied. We assessed the effects of inhibiting autophagy and silencing eEF2K on cell viability, tumor formation and invasion. We also collected residual tumor samples from 222 breast cancer patients who underwent neoadjuvant chemotherapy and measured eEF2K and LC3 expression levels by immunohistochemistry (IHC). Multivariate survival analysis was used to determine prognostic variables. Results:Compared to the parental lines, the chemoresistant lines exhibited enhanced starvation-stimulated autophagy and showed significant decreases in cell viability, growth and invasion upon treatment with autophagy inhibitors. eEF2K silencing also resulted in the suppression of autophagic activity and in aggressive biological behavior. In the survival analysis, residual tumor LC3 (P=0.001) and eEF2K (P=0.027) expression levels were independent prognostic factors for patients who underwent neoadjuvant chemotherapy, especially in those with TNBC. Conclusions:Our study indicated that eEF2K and autophagy play key roles in the maintenance of aggressive tumor behavior and chemoresistance in resistant TNBC. eEF2K silencing may be a novel strategy for the treatment of TNBC.
Project description:Eukaryotic elongation factor 2 (eEF2) kinase (eEF2K) is one of the Ca<sup>2+</sup>/calmodulin-dependent protein kinases. Activated eEF2K phosphorylates its specific substrate, eEF2, which results in inhibition of protein translation. We have recently shown that protein expression of eEF2K was specifically increased in hypertrophied left ventricles (LV) from spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR). However, phosphorylation state of eEF2K and eEF2 in hypertrophied LV is not determined. In the present study, we examined expression and phosphorylation of eEF2K and eEF2 in LV from SHR as well as the pressure overload (transverse aortic constriction: TAC)- and isoproterenol (ISO)-induced cardiac hypertrophy model. In LV from TAC mice, eEF2K expression was increased as determined by Western blotting. In LV from TAC mice and SHR, eEF2K phosphorylation at Ser366 (inactive site) was decreased. Consistently, eEF2 phosphorylation at Thr56 was increased. In LV from ISO rats, while eEF2K phosphorylation was decreased, eEF2K expression and eEF2 phosphorylation were not different as determined by Western blotting. In the results obtained from immunohistochemistry, however, total eEF2K and phosphorylated eEF2 (at Thr56) localized to cardiomyocytes were increased in LV cardiomyocytes from ISO rats. Accordingly, the increased expression and the decreased phosphorylation of eEF2K and the increased phosphorylation of eEF2 in hypertrophied LV were common to all models in this study. The present results thus suggest that cardiac hypertrophy may be regulated at least partly via eEF2K-eEF2 signaling pathway.
Project description:Cyclin dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitors, such as flavopiridol, demonstrate significant single-agent activity in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), but the mechanism of action in these nonproliferating cells is unclear. Here we demonstrate that CLL cells undergo autophagy after treatment with therapeutic agents, including fludarabine, CAL-101, and flavopiridol as well as the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress-inducing agent thapsigargin. The addition of chloroquine or siRNA against autophagy components enhanced the cytotoxic effects of flavopiridol and thapsigargin, but not the other agents. Similar to thapsigargin, flavopiridol robustly induces a distinct pattern of ER stress in CLL cells that contributes to cell death through IRE1-mediated activation of ASK1 and possibly downstream caspases. Both autophagy and ER stress were documented in tumor cells from CLL patients receiving flavopiridol. Thus, CLL cells undergo autophagy after multiple stimuli, including therapeutic agents, but only with ER stress mediators and CDK inhibitors is autophagy a mechanism of resistance to cell death. These findings collectively demonstrate, for the first time, a novel mechanism of action (ER stress) and drug resistance (autophagy) for CDK inhibitors, such as flavopiridol in CLL, and provide avenues for new therapeutic combination approaches in this disease.
Project description:DNA damage-inducible transcript 4 (DDIT4) is known to participate in various cancers, including glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). However, contradictory roles of DDIT4 exist in inducing cell death and possessing anti-apoptotic functions against cancer progression. Herein, we investigated DDIT4 signaling in GBM and temozolomide (TMZ) drug resistance. We identified that TMZ induced DDIT4 upregulation, leading to desensitization against TMZ cytotoxicity in GBM cells. Higher DDIT4 levels were found in glioma cells and mesenchymal-type GBM patients, and these higher levels were positively correlated with mesenchymal markers. Furthermore, patients with lower DDIT4 levels, especially O-6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT)-methylated patients, exhibited better TMZ therapeutic efficacy. We determined that higher levels of 5 DDIT4-associated downstream genes, including SLC2A3 (also known as glucose transporter 3 (GLUT3)), can be used to predict a poor prognosis. Among these 5 genes, only GLUT3 was upregulated in both TMZ-treated and DDIT4-overexpressing cells. DDIT4-mediated GLUT3 expression was also identified, and its expression decreased TMZ's cytotoxicity. A significant correlation existed between DDIT4 and GLUT3. DDIT4 signaling was found to be involved in both glycolytic and autophagic pathways. However, GLUT3 only participated in the exhibition of DDIT4-mediated stemness, resulting from glycolytic regulation, but not in DDIT4-mediated autophagic signaling. Finally, we identified TMZ-upregulated activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) as an upstream regulator of DDIT4-mediated GLUT3/stemness signaling and autophagy. Consequently, ATF4/DDIT4 signaling was connected to both autophagy and GLUT3-regulated stemness, which are involved in TMZ drug resistance and the poor prognoses of GBM patients. Targeting DDIT4/GLUT3 signaling might be a new direction for glioma therapy.
Project description:The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) plays a vital function in multiple cellular processes. There is a growing interest in developing therapeutic agents that can target the ER in cancer cells, inducing a stress response that leads to cell death. However, ER stress-inducing agents can also induce autophagy, a survival strategy of cancer cells. Therefore, by inhibiting autophagy we can increase the efficacy of the ER stress-inducing agents. Nelfinavir, a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) protease inhibitor with anti-cancer properties, can induce ER stress. Nelfinavir's effects on chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are yet to be elucidated. Herein we demonstrate that nelfinavir induces ER morphological changes and stress response, along with an autophagic protective strategy. Our data reveal that chloroquine, an autophagy inhibitor, significantly increases nelfinavir cytotoxicity. These results identify a novel strategy potentially effective in CLL treatment, by repositioning two well-known drugs as a combinatorial therapy with anti-cancer properties.
Project description:Eukaryotic elongation factor 2 kinase (eEF2K) is a highly unusual protein kinase that negatively regulates the elongation step of protein synthesis. This step uses the vast majority of the large amount of energy and amino acids required for protein synthesis. eEF2K activity is controlled by an array of regulatory inputs, including inhibition by signalling through mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1). eEF2K is activated under conditions of stress, such as energy depletion or nutrient deprivation, which can arise in poorly-vascularised tumours. In many such stress conditions, eEF2K exerts cytoprotective effects. A growing body of data indicates eEF2K aids the growth of solid tumours in vivo. Since eEF2K is not essential (in mice) under 'normal' conditions, eEF2K may be a useful target in the treatment of solid tumours. However, some reports suggest that eEF2K may actually impair tumorigenesis in some situations. Such a dual role of eEF2K in cancer would be analogous to the situation for other pathways involved in cell metabolism, such as autophagy and mTORC1. Further studies are needed to define the role of eEF2K in different tumour types and at differing stages in tumorigenesis, and to assess its utility as a therapeutic target in oncology.
Project description:Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and autophagy are two basic cell survival mechanisms often occurring in concert. Extensive ER stress in cancer cells deliberately induced by chemotherapeutic drugs may lead to growth arrest and cell death. However, the link between ER stress and autophagy is not well understood. In this study, the treatment of cancer cells with ER stress-inducing drug nelfinavir resulted in the expression of endogenous mTOR inhibitor sestrin-2 (SESN2). Upregulation of SESN2 expression was associated with expression of ER stress markers ATF4, ATF3, and CHOP. SESN2 upregulation also occurred in cells treated with the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib. Ectopic expression of ATF4, but not of ATF3 or CHOP, caused transcriptional upregulation of SESN2 expression, indicating expressional regulation of SESN2 by ATF4. Transient overexpression of ectopic SESN2 resulted in mTOR inhibition and autophagy, confirming a link between ER stress, SESN2 upregulation, and mTOR inhibition. Accordingly, cancer cells treated with the ER stress-inducing agent nelfinavir showed reduced mTOR activity and associated increases in the expression levels of ATF4 and SESN2. These results show that ATF4-regulated SESN2 expression presents a new link between ER stress and mTOR inhibition and autophagy. mTOR inhibition by nelfinavir, which is currently in clinical trials for cancer patients, may also explain its observed ability to induce autophagy, growth arrest, and radiosensitization in cancer cells.
Project description:Autophagy drives drug resistance and drug-induced cancer cell cytotoxicity. Targeting the autophagy process could greatly improve chemotherapy outcomes. The discovery of specific inhibitors or activators has been hindered by challenges with reliably measuring autophagy levels in a clinical setting. We investigated drug-induced autophagy in breast cancer cell lines with differing ER/PR/Her2 receptor status by exposing them to known but divergent autophagy inducers each with a unique molecular target, tamoxifen, trastuzumab, bortezomib or rapamycin. Differential gene expression analysis from total RNA extracted during the earliest sign of autophagy flux showed both cell- and drug-specific changes. We analyzed the list of differentially expressed genes to find a common, cell- and drug-agnostic autophagy signature. Twelve mRNAs were significantly modulated by all the drugs and 11 were orthogonally verified with Q-RT-PCR (Klhl24, Hbp1, Crebrf, Ypel2, Fbxo32, Gdf15, Cdc25a, Ddit4, Psat1, Cd22, Ypel3). The drug agnostic mRNA signature was similarly induced by a mitochondrially targeted agent, MitoQ. In-silico analysis on the KM-plotter cancer database showed that the levels of these mRNAs are detectable in human samples and associated with breast cancer prognosis outcomes of Relapse-Free Survival in all patients (RSF), Overall Survival in all patients (OS), and Relapse-Free Survival in ER+ Patients (RSF ER+). High levels of Klhl24, Hbp1, Crebrf, Ypel2, CD22 and Ypel3 were correlated with better outcomes, whereas lower levels of Gdf15, Cdc25a, Ddit4 and Psat1 were associated with better prognosis in breast cancer patients. This gene signature uncovers candidate autophagy biomarkers that could be tested during preclinical and clinical studies to monitor the autophagy process.
Project description:The high incidence of glioblastoma recurrence necessitates additional therapeutic strategies. Heterogeneous populations of cells, including glioma stem cells (GSC) have been implicated in disease recurrence. GSCs are able to survive irradiation and temozolomide (TMZ) treatment due to upregulation of DNA damage pathways. One potential strategy to target treatment-resistant tumor populations may be via the integrated stress response (ISR). Modulation of the ISR pathway also allows for sensitization of treatment-resistant cells to TRAIL. We generated a novel cell-based death receptor assay to identify potent inducers of ISR-dependent DR5 expression. We used this assay to screen compounds from three commercially available libraries, and identified 1-benzyl-3-cetyl-2-methylimidazolium iodide (NH125) as a potent inducer of DR5 expression. NH125 engages the EIF2α-ATF4-CHOP axis culminating in DR5 expression at low micromolar doses. Expression of CHOP plays a critical role in NH125-mediated TRAIL synergy. Treatment of GSC with NH125 produces a marked reduction in viability when compared with other cell lines. NH125-treated GSC also synergize with lower doses of TRAIL when compared with all other cell lines tested. Transcriptional analysis of NH125-treated GSC uncovers a unique profile that involves activation of ISR and GADD45 pathways. Treatment of GSC xenografts with encapsulated PEG-PCL-NH125 leads to a sustained decrease in tumor volume. IMPLICATIONS: Taken together, these data suggest that engaging the ISR pathway represents a promising strategy to target treatment refractory GSC that have been implicated in glioblastoma recurrence.