Tetrocarcin-A--induced ER Stress Mediates Apoptosis in B-CLL Cells via a Bcl-2--independent Pathway

Blood. 2003 Jun 1;101(11):4561-8. doi: 10.1182/blood-2002-08-2501. Epub 2003 Jan 30.


Tetrocarcin-A (TC-A), an antibiotic agent isolated from actinomycetes, has recently been described to antagonize Bcl-2 functions, thereby sensitizing tumor cells to cell death signals under control of Bcl-2. In this study, we analyzed the direct proapoptotic effect of TC-A in the B-chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) model. We focused on the signal cascade triggered by TC-A in B-CLL cells and identified activated mitochondrial as well as endoplasmatic reticulum (ER) stress signals. The expression levels of known effector molecules mediating mitochondrial signaling, such as Bax and Bid, and the antagonistic molecule Bcl-2 did not influence sensitivity of B-CLL cells to TC-A. Furthermore, the molecular chaperone and sensor of ER stress, HSP70, though significantly up-regulated in B-CLL cells undergoing TC-A-triggered apoptosis, was ineffective to exert its anti-apoptotic function described in multiple cell death pathways. Autologous T cells of B-CLL patients were significantly less sensitive to TC-A as were also T cells from healthy donors when compared with their normal B-cell fraction. Furthermore, sensitivity of B-CLL cells to TC-A treatment in vitro was dependent neither on the expression levels of CD38-a prognostic factor for survival of B-CLL patients as well as for their response to therapy-nor on the clinical stage or pretreatment status of patients. From our data showing that TC-A induced a cell death pathway via ER stress preferentially in B cells and that it acted independently of important markers of drug sensitivity and of clinical markers, we conclude that TC-A might represent an attractive candidate drug for further evaluation in preclinical trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aminoglycosides*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Caspase 8
  • Caspase 9
  • Caspases
  • Female
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / drug therapy
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / pathology*
  • Male
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53


  • Aminoglycosides
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • tetrocarcin A
  • CASP8 protein, human
  • CASP9 protein, human
  • Caspase 8
  • Caspase 9
  • Caspases