Smac mimetic promotes glioblastoma cancer stem-like cell differentiation by activating NF-κB

Cell Death Differ. 2014 May;21(5):735-47. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2013.200. Epub 2014 Jan 31.


Recently, a broader role of inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) proteins besides their antiapoptotic functions has been described. Therefore, we investigated the effect of non-toxic concentrations of the small-molecule Smac mimetic BV6, which antagonizes IAP proteins, on differentiation of cancer stem-like cells (CSLCs) derived from primary glioblastoma (GBM) specimens. Here, we identify a novel function of BV6 in regulating differentiation of GBM CSLCs by activating NF-κB. BV6 at non-lethal doses stimulates morphological changes associated with the differentiation of GBM CSLCs. BV6 increases transcriptional activity, mRNA and protein levels of the astrocytic marker GFAP without altering expression of the neuronal marker β-III-tubulin, indicating that BV6 induces astrocytic differentiation of GBM CSLCs. Molecular studies reveal that BV6 triggers processing of the NF-κB subunit p100 to p52, nuclear translocation of p52 and p50 and increased NF-κB DNA-binding. Intriguingly, inhibition of NF-κB by overexpression of dominant-negative IκBα super-repressor (IκBα-SR) blocks the BV6-stimulated increase in GFAP and differentiation. Interestingly, this BV6-stimulated differentiation is associated with reduced expression of stemness markers such as CD133, Nanog and Sox2 in GBM CSLCs. In contrast, BV6 does not alter cell morphology, differentiation and expression of stemness markers in non-malignant neural stem cells. Importantly, BV6 treatment reduces clonogenicity of GBM CSLCs in vitro and in vivo, suppresses their tumorigenicity in orthotopic and subcutaneous mouse models and significantly increases the survival of mice. By identifying a novel role of BV6 in promoting differentiation of GBM CSLCs, these findings provide new insights into Smac mimetic-regulated non-apoptotic functions with important implications for targeting GBM CSLCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Glioblastoma / drug therapy
  • Glioblastoma / metabolism
  • Glioblastoma / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Oligopeptides / pharmacology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • BV6 peptide
  • NF-kappa B
  • Oligopeptides