Role of intracellular calcium in proteasome inhibitor-induced endoplasmic reticulum stress, autophagy, and cell death

Pharm Res. 2013 Sep;30(9):2279-89. doi: 10.1007/s11095-013-1139-8. Epub 2013 Jul 27.


Purpose: Proteasome inhibition induces endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and compensatory autophagy to relieve ER stress. Disturbance of intracellular calcium homeostasis can lead to ER stress and alter the autophagy process. It has been suggested that inhibition of the proteasome disrupts intracellular calcium homeostasis. However, it is unknown if intracellular calcium affects proteasome inhibitor-induced ER stress and autophagy.

Methods: Human colon cancer HCT116 Bax positive and negative cell lines were treated with MG132, a proteasome inhibitor. BAPTA-AM, a cell permeable free calcium chelator, was used to modulate intracellular calcium levels. Autophagy and cell death were determined by fluorescence microscopy and immunoblot analysis.

Results: MG132 increased intracellular calcium levels in HCT116 cells, which was suppressed by BAPTA-AM. MG132 suppressed proteasome activity independent of Bax and intracellular calcium levels in HCT116 cells. BAPTA-AM inhibited MG132-induced cellular vacuolization and ER stress, but not apoptosis. MG132 induced autophagy with normal autophagosome-lysosome fusion. BAPTA-AM seemed not to affect autophagosome-lysosome fusion in MG132-treated cells but further enhanced MG132-induced LC3-II levels and GFP-LC3 puncta formation, which was likely via impaired lysosome function.

Conclusions: Blocking intracellular calcium by BAPTA-AM relieved MG132-induced ER stress, but it was unable to rescue MG132-induced apoptosis, which was likely due to impaired autophagic degradation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autophagy / drug effects
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Cell Death / drug effects*
  • Chelating Agents / pharmacology
  • Egtazic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Egtazic Acid / pharmacology
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / drug effects
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / drug effects*
  • HCT116 Cells
  • Humans
  • Leupeptins / pharmacology*
  • Proteasome Inhibitors / pharmacology*


  • Chelating Agents
  • Leupeptins
  • Proteasome Inhibitors
  • 1,2-bis(2-aminophenoxy)ethane N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid acetoxymethyl ester
  • Egtazic Acid
  • benzyloxycarbonylleucyl-leucyl-leucine aldehyde
  • Calcium