NF-kappaB-independent sensitization of glioblastoma cells for TRAIL-induced apoptosis by proteasome inhibition

Oncogene. 2007 Jan 25;26(4):571-82. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1209841. Epub 2006 Aug 7.


The transcription factor nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) is a key regulator of stress-induced transcriptional activation and has been implicated in mediating primary or acquired apoptosis resistance in various cancers. In the present study, we therefore investigated the role of NF-kappaB in regulating apoptosis in malignant glioma, a prototypic tumor refractory to current treatment approaches. Here, we report that constitutive NF-kappaB DNA-binding activity was low or moderate in eight different glioblastoma cell lines compared to Hodgkin's lymphoma cells, known to harbor aberrant constitutive NF-kappaB activity. Specific inhibition of NF-kappaB by overexpression of inhibitor of kappaB (IkappaB)alpha superrepressor did not enhance spontaneous apoptosis of glioblastoma cells. Also, overexpression of IkappaBalpha superrepressor had no significant impact on apoptosis induced by two prototypic classes of apoptotic stimuli, that is, chemotherapeutic drugs or death-inducing ligands such as TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL), which are known to trigger NF-kappaB activation as part of a cellular stress response. Similarly, inhibition of NF-kappaB by the proteasome inhibitor MG132 did not increase doxorubicin (Doxo)-induced apoptosis of glioblastoma cells, although it prevented DNA binding of NF-kappaB complexes in response to Doxo. Interestingly, proteasome inhibition significantly sensitized glioblastoma cells for TRAIL-induced apoptosis. These findings indicate that the characteristic antiapoptotic function of NF-kappaB reported for many cancers is not a primary feature of glioblastoma and thus, specific NF-kappaB inhibition may not be effective for chemosensitization of glioblastoma. Instead, proteasome inhibitors, which enhanced TRAIL-induced apoptosis in an NF-kappaB-independent manner, may open new perspectives to increase the efficacy of TRAIL-based regimens in glioblastoma, which warrants further investigation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Glioblastoma / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Leupeptins / pharmacology
  • NF-kappa B / antagonists & inhibitors
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / physiology*
  • Proteasome Inhibitors*
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / pharmacology*
  • Transcriptional Activation / drug effects
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Leupeptins
  • NF-kappa B
  • Proteasome Inhibitors
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • TNFSF10 protein, human
  • Doxorubicin
  • benzyloxycarbonylleucyl-leucyl-leucine aldehyde