Although camptothecin (CPT) has been reported to induce apoptosis in various cancer cells, the molecular details of this regulation remain largely unknown. In this study, we demonstrate that BH3-only protein Noxa is upregulated during CPT-induced apoptosis, which is independent of p53. In addition, we show that phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt signaling pathway is responsible for Noxa's induction. Luciferase assay and cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) knockdown experiments further demonstrate that CREB is involved in the transcriptional upregulation of Noxa. Moreover, blocking Noxa expression using specific small interfering ribonucleic acid (siRNA) significantly reduces the apoptosis in response to CPT, indicating that Noxa is an essential mediator for CPT-induced apoptosis. Interestingly, antiapoptotic Mcl-1 was also upregulated through PI3K/Akt signaling pathway upon CPT treatment. Using immunoprecipitation assay, Noxa was found to interact with Mcl-1 in the presence or absence of CPT. Knockdown of Mcl-1 expression by short hairpin ribonucleic acid (shRNA) was shown to potentiate CPT-induced apoptosis. Consistently, ectopic overexpression of Mcl-1 rescued cells from apoptosis induced by CPT. Cells coexpressing Noxa and Mcl-1 at different ratio correlates well with the extent of apoptosis, suggesting that the balance between Noxa and Mcl-1 may determine the susceptibility of HeLa cells to CPT-induced apoptosis.
Keywords: CREB; Mcl-1; Noxa; apoptosis; camptothecin.