As the standard therapy for pancreatic cancer, gemcitabine shows limited efficacy in pancreatic cancer patients because of chemoresistance. Aberrant expression of Bmi1 has been reported to activate multiple growth-regulatory pathways and confer anti-apoptotic abilities to many cancer cells. However, the role of Bmi1 in response of pancreatic cancer cells towards gemcitabine resistance remains elusive. In this study, we found that certain dose of gemcitabine treatment induced Bmi1 expression in pancreatic cancer cells. Knockdown of Bmi1 enhanced ROS production and promoted the cytotoxic effect of gemcitabine. The increased oxidative stress upon gemcitabine treatment could disrupt mitochondrial membrane and decrease mitochondrial membrane potential, eventually leading to apoptosis. Bmi1 inhibition also suppressed the activation of NF-κB signaling and the expressions of downstream molecules in pancreatic cancer cells treated with gemcitabine. Moreover, we observed Bmi1 inhibition sensitized the pancreatic xenograft tumors to gemcitabine in vivo. Taken together, our study demonstrated that Bmi1 could decrease the sensitivity of pancreatic cancer cells to gemcitabine through increasing oxidative stress and inhibiting NF-κB signaling, thus Bmi1 may serve as a promising target for sensitizing pancreatic cancer cells to chemotherapy.
Keywords: Bmi1; chemotherapy; efficacy; gemcitabine; pancreatic cancer.