The combination of TRAIL and the Smac mimetic LCL-161 induces an irreversible phenotypic change of MCF-7 breast cancer cells

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Introduction: Breast cancer is the most common malignancy affecting women. Although the prognosis generally is good, a substantial number of patients still suffer from relapse, emphasizing the need for novel treatments. Smac mimetics were developed to facilitate cell death by blocking inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAPs). It has been suggested that TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) can be used together with Smac mimetics to induce cancer cell death. Methods: Cell viability was studied with Trypan blue staining and Annexin V assay, siRNA was used to downregulate specific proteins, protein levels were estimated with Western blot, and mRNA levels were analyzed with qPCR, microarray and RNA-seq. For global expression, groups were compared with principal component analysis and the limma package in R. Gene enrichment was analyzed with Fisher's test. For other experiments, significance of difference was tested by one-way ANOVA, followed by Tukey's HSD test. Results: The combination of Smac mimetic LCL-161 and TRAIL induces an irreversible change in phenotype, but not cell death, of luminal MCF-7 breast cancer cells. The cells become small and circular and dissociate from each other and the effect could not be reversed by returning the cells to regular growth medium. The morphology change could be prevented by caspase inhibition using z-VAD-FMK and downregulation of caspase-8. Caspase-7 is also indicated to be of importance since downregulation of this caspase resulted in fewer morphologically changed cells. Enrichment analyses of changes in global gene expression demonstrated that genes associated with estrogen receptor (ER) signaling are downregulated, whereas nuclear factor kappa B- (NF-κB) and interferon- (IFN) driven genes are upregulated in altered cells. However, inhibition of these pathways did not influence the change in morphology. Induction of IFN-induced genes were potentiated but NF-ĸB-driven genes were slightly suppressed by caspase inhibition. Conclusions: The results demonstrate that LCL-161 and TRAIL can irreversibly alter the MCF-7 breast cancer cell phenotype. However, the changes in morphology and global gene expression are mediated via separate pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104739
JournalExperimental and Molecular Pathology
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Apr

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Cancer and Oncology

Free keywords

  • Breast cancer cells
  • Caspase
  • Interferon type I
  • Morphology
  • Non-canonical NF-ĸB
  • Smac mimetics


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