Background: Spontaneous apoptosis has been shown to predict tumor response to radiochemotherapy in rectal cancer in vivo. It remains to be elucidated, however, which genetic profile determines whether a tumor is more or less prone to apoptosis. Recently, a novel member of the inhibitor of apoptosis protein family, designated survivin, was identified. We investigated the impact of survivin expression on tumor cell apoptosis in three colorectal cell lines of different intrinsic radiosensitivities.
Methods and materials: Survivin protein expression was measured by Western blot analysis, and survivin mRNA expression by quantitative TaqMan reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, both in untreated cell and after irradiation with 2 and 8 Gy. The expression profile was then correlated to spontaneous and radiation-induced apoptosis (Tunel-Assay, DAPI-staining) in three colorectal cell lines of low (SW 480), intermediate (HCT-15), and high radiosensitivity (SW 48), as determined by the colony-forming assay.
Results: In vitro analysis revealed higher spontaneous and higher radiation-induced apoptosis rates in the radiosensitive line (SW 48), as compared with the more resistant line (SW 480). In Western blot analysis and in TaqMan analysis, SW 480 was characterized by a higher spontaneous expression and a pronounced induction of survivin 48 h after irradiation, whereas survivin expression was low when untreated and not increased after irradiation in the most radiosensitive line SW 48. HCT-15 was intermediate, both with respect to the level of survivin mRNA and protein expression.
Conclusion: The inverse correlation of survivin-expression with spontaneous and radiation-induced apoptosis suggests that survivin is an important inhibitor of apoptosis in colorectal cancer cell lines. Analysis of survivin mRNA or protein expression may therefore provide predictive information on radio- and chemoresistance of individual colorectal tumors.