The proteasome inhibitor bortezomib sensitizes cells to killing by death receptor ligand TRAIL via BH3-only proteins Bik and Bim

Malti Nikrad, Thomas Johnson, Hamsa Puthalalath, Leigh Coultas, Jerry Adams, Andrew S. Kraft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

158 Scopus citations


Previously, we showed that the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib/Velcade (formerly PS-341) synergizes with the protein tumor necrosis factor α-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), a ligand for certain death receptors, to induce apoptosis in cell lines derived from prostate and colon cancers. Because apoptosis is often triggered by BH3-only proteins of the Bcl-2 family, we have explored the hypothesis that bortezomib contributes to the apoptosis by up-regulating their levels. Indeed, bortezomib induced increases of Bik and/or Bim in multiple cell lines but not notably of two other BH3-only proteins (Puma and Bid) nor other family members (Bax, Bak, Bcl-2, and Bcl-xL). The increase in Bik levels seems to reflect inhibition by bortezomib of its proteasome-mediated degradation. Importantly, both Bik and Bim seem central to the proapoptotic function of bortezomib because mouse embryo fibroblasts in which the genes for both Bik and Bim had been disrupted were refractory to its cytotoxic action. Similarly, the synergy between bortezomib and TRAIL in killing human prostate cancer cells was impaired in cells in which both Bik and Bim were down-regulated by RNA interference. Further evidence that bortezomib acts through the mitochondrial pathway regulated by the Bcl-2 family is that deficiency for APAF-1, which acts downstream of Bcl-2, also blocked its apoptotic effect. These results implicate BH3-only proteins, in particular both Bik and Bim, as important mediators of the antitumor action of bortezomib and establish their role in its enhancement of TRAIL-induced apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-449
Number of pages7
JournalMolecular Cancer Therapeutics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

Cite this