Background: Activating Transcription Factor (ATF) 3 is a key regulator of the cellular integrated stress response whose expression has also been correlated with pro-apoptotic activities in tumour cell models. Combination treatments with chemotherapeutic drugs, such as cisplatin, and histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors have been demonstrated to enhance tumour cell cytotoxicity. We recently demonstrated a role for ATF3 in regulating cisplatin-induced apoptosis and others have shown that HDAC inhibition can also induce cellular stress. In this study, we evaluated the role of ATF3 in regulating the co-operative cytotoxicity of cisplatin in combination with an HDAC inhibitor.
Results: The HDAC inhibitor M344 induced ATF3 expression at the protein and mRNA level in a panel of human derived cancer cell lines as determined by Western blot and quantitative RT-PCR analyses. Combination treatment with M344 and cisplatin lead to increased induction of ATF3 compared with cisplatin alone. Utilizing the MTT cell viability assay, M344 treatments also enhanced the cytotoxic effects of cisplatin in these cancer cell lines. The mechanism of ATF3 induction by M344 was found to be independent of MAPKinase pathways and dependent on ATF4, a known regulator of ATF3 expression. ATF4 heterozygote (+/-) and knock out (-/-) mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) as well as chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays were utilized in determining the mechanistic induction of ATF3 by M344. We also demonstrated that ATF3 regulates the enhanced cytotoxicity of M344 in combination with cisplatin as evidenced by attenuation of cytotoxicity in shRNAs targeting ATF3 expressing cells.
Conclusion: This study identifies the pro-apoptotic factor, ATF3 as a novel target of M344, as well as a mediator of the co-operative effects of cisplatin and M344 induced tumour cell cytotoxicity.