TRAIL induced survival and proliferation in cancer cells resistant towards TRAIL-induced apoptosis mediated by NF-kappaB

Oncogene. 2003 Jun 19;22(25):3842-52. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1206520.


Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is a potent inducer of apoptosis in cancer cells. Examining primary cells of children with untreated acute leukemia, TRAIL induced apoptosis in 50% of cells, but to our surprise attenuated spontaneous apoptosis in the remaining samples or, most importantly, even mediated proliferation. We therefore examined tumor cell lines of leukemic and nonleukemic origin with apoptosis resistance towards TRAIL because of absent Caspase-8 or dysfunctional FADD. In all cell lines tested, TRAIL treatment increased cell numbers in average to 163% within 4 days and accelerated doubling time from 24 to 19 h. TRAIL-mediated proliferation was completely abrogated by blockade of NF-kappaB activation using proteasome inhibitors or in RIP-negative, IKKgamma-negative cells or in cells overexpressing dominant-negative IkappaBalpha. Our data describe the biological significance of TRAIL-mediated activation of NF-kappaB in cancer cells resistant to TRAIL-mediated apoptosis: TRAIL leads to an increase in tumor cell count by a prosurvival and possibly mitogenic function. Given the promising therapeutic potential of TRAIL as a novel anticancer drug, TRAIL-mediated survival or proliferation of target cells may restrict its use to apoptosis-sensitive tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Female
  • Humans
  • I-kappa B Kinase
  • Jurkat Cells / drug effects
  • Leukemia, Myeloid / pathology
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / pharmacology*
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / physiology*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology*
  • Protease Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / deficiency
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / physiology
  • Proteins / physiology
  • Receptor-Interacting Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / drug effects
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • NF-kappa B
  • Protease Inhibitors
  • Proteins
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • TNFSF10 protein, human
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • RIPK1 protein, human
  • Receptor-Interacting Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • CHUK protein, human
  • I-kappa B Kinase
  • IKBKB protein, human
  • IKBKE protein, human
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex