Neuroblastoma is the most frequent extracranial solid tumor in children. Here, we report that the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib (PS-341, Velcade) activated the pro-apoptotic BH3-only proteins PMAIP1/Noxa and BBC3/Puma and induced accumulation of anti-apoptotic MCL1 as well as repression of anti-apoptotic BCL2L1/Bcl-xL. Retroviral expression of Bcl-xL, but not of MCL1, prevented apoptosis by bortezomib. Gene knockdown of Noxa by shRNA technology significantly reduced apoptosis, whereas Puma knockdown did not affect cell death kinetics. Immunoprecipitation revealed that endogenous Noxa associated with both, Bcl-xL and MCL1, suggesting that in neuronal cells Noxa can neutralize Bcl-xL, explaining the pronounced protective effect of Bcl-xL. Tetracycline-regulated Noxa expression did not trigger cell death per se but sensitized to bortezomib treatment in a dose-dependent manner. This implies that the induction of Noxa is necessary but not sufficient for bortezomib-induced apoptosis. We conclude that MCL1 steady-state expression levels do not affect sensitivity to proteasome-inhibitor treatment in neuronal tumor cells, and that both the repression of Bcl-xL and the activation of Noxa are necessary for bortezomib-induced cell death.
Hagenbuchner, J., Ausserlechner, M. J., Porto, V., David, R., Meister, B., Bodner, M., … Obexer, P. (2010). The anti-apoptotic protein BCL2L1/Bcl-xL is neutralized by pro-apoptotic PMAIP1/noxa in neuroblastoma, thereby determining bortezomib sensitivity independent of prosurvival MCL1 expression. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 285(10), 6904–6912. https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M109.038331