Objective: To establish a model of ER stress-induced apoptosis with tunicamycin and to examine whether Bim is dysregulated and its potential role in resistance of melanoma cells to apoptosis under endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress.
Methods: A model of ER stress-induced apoptosis was established with tunicamycin. Apoptotic cells were quantitated using the annexin V/propidium iodide method by flow cytometry. Hoechst staining was also used to confirm the apoptotic cell death. Western blotting was used to measure the activation of caspase-3 and -9, and the expression of Bim, GRP78, CHOP, and Foxo1 at the protein level. The expression of Bim, CHOP and Foxo1 at the mRNA level was quantitated by qPCR. The siRNA technique was used to inhibit the expression of Bim.
Results: Treatment of the melanoma cells with tunicamycin did not induce significant apoptosis and activation of caspase cascade, whereas it caused marked activation of caspase-3 and -9, and apoptosis in HEK293 cells which were used as a control. With exposure to tunicamycin (3 µmol/L) for 12, 24, 36 hours the Bim protein levels were not increased in Mel-RM and MM200 cells. Its mRNA levels were 0.37 ± 0.05, 0.13 ± 0.02 and 0.02 ± 0.01 in Mel-RM cells, while 0.41 ± 0.06, 0.16 ± 0.04 and 0.21 ± 0.03 in MM200 cells, respectively. The expression of Bim mRNA was significantly reduced compared with that in the control groups of the two cell lines (P < 0.01). siRNA knockdown of Bim protected HEK293 cells against activation of caspase-3. The cell apoptosis of Bim siRNA group was (5.69 ± 0.38)%, significantly lower than that of the siRNA control group (40.32 ± 1.64)% and blank control group (35.46 ± 2.01)% (P < 0.01). In the melanoma cells after exposure to tunicamycin (3 µmol/L) for 6, 12, 24, and 36 hours the transcription factor CHOP at mRNA level were significantly increased and the expressions at protein level were also up-regulated. The expressions of another transcription factor Foxo1 at mRNA level significantly decreased and the expressions at protein level were down-regulated, too.
Conclusions: The lack of Bim up-regulation contributes to the resistance of melanoma cells to ER stress-induced apoptosis and may be a mechanism by which melanoma cells adapt to ER stress conditions. Transcription factors CHOP and Foxo1 may be responsible for the dysregulation of Bim in melanoma cells upon ER stress.