Combinatorial action of the HDAC inhibitor trichostatin A and etoposide induces caspase-mediated AIF-dependent apoptotic cell death in non-small cell lung carcinoma cells

Oncogene. 2008 May 15;27(22):3134-44. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1210976. Epub 2007 Dec 10.


Commonly used regimens in cancer therapy rely on the induction of apoptotic cell death, and drug resistance can be attributed, at least in part, to a disabled apoptotic program. Non-small cell lung carcinomas (NSCLC), exhibit an intrinsic resistance to chemotherapy. Here, we show that co-treatment with etoposide (VP16) and the pan-histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA), but not valproic acid (VPA), induced apoptotic cell death in drug-resistant NSCLC cells. Co-treatment, but not single treatment, with VP16 and TSA induced apoptosis in a caspase-dependent manner accompanied by a crucial decrease in Bcl-xL expression allowing Bax activation and subsequent initiation of the apoptosis inducing factor (AIF)-dependent death pathway. Importantly, AIF proved to be required for the effects of TSA/VP16 as RNA knockdown of AIF resulted in a complete abolishment of TSA/VP16-induced apoptotic cell death in drug-resistant NSCLC cells. Our results thus provide evidence for the requirement of both caspase-dependent and caspase-independent apoptotic pathways in TSA/VP16-mediated death of drug-resistant NSCLC cells, and extend previous suggestions that HDAC inhibitors in combination with conventional chemotherapeutic drugs could be valuable in the treatment of NSCLC cancer and other malignancies in which Bcl-xL is overexpressed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Chloromethyl Ketones / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis Inducing Factor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Apoptosis Inducing Factor / physiology*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / metabolism
  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Etoposide / administration & dosage*
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Humans
  • Hydroxamic Acids / administration & dosage*
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / metabolism
  • bcl-X Protein / metabolism


  • AIFM1 protein, human
  • Amino Acid Chloromethyl Ketones
  • Apoptosis Inducing Factor
  • BCL2L1 protein, human
  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Hydroxamic Acids
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • bcl-X Protein
  • benzyloxycarbonylvalyl-alanyl-aspartyl fluoromethyl ketone
  • trichostatin A
  • Etoposide
  • Caspases