Reversion of resistance to oxaliplatin by inhibition of p38 MAPK in colorectal cancer cell lines: involvement of the calpain / Nox1 pathway

Oncotarget. 2017 Oct 10;8(61):103710-103730. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.21780. eCollection 2017 Nov 28.


Oxaliplatin is a major treatment for metastatic colorectal cancer, however its effectiveness is greatly diminished by the development of resistances. Our previous work has shown that oxaliplatin efficacy depends on the reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced by Nox1. In this report, we investigated Nox1 involvement in the survival mechanisms of oxaliplatin resistant cell lines that we have selected. Our results show that basal ROS production by Nox1 is increased in resistant cells. Whereas the transitory Nox1-dependent production of superoxide contributes to the cytotoxicity of oxaliplatin in sensitive cells, oxaliplatin treatment of resistant cells leads to a decrease in the production of superoxide associated with an increase of H2O2 and a decreased cytotoxicity of oxaliplatin. We have shown that calpains regulate differently Nox1 according to the sensitivity of the cells to oxaliplatin. In sensitive cells, calpains inhibit Nox1 by cleaving NoxA1 leading to a transient ROS production necessary for oxaliplatin cytotoxic effects. In contrast, in resistant cells calpain activation is associated with an increase of Nox1 activity through Src kinases, inducing a strong and maintained ROS production responsible for cell survival. Using a kinomic study we have shown that this overactivation of Nox1 results in an increase of p38 MAPK activity allowing the resistant cells to escape apoptosis. Our results show that the modulation of Nox1 activity in the context of anticancer treatment remains complex. However, a strategy to maximize Nox1 activation while inhibiting the p38 MAPK-dependent escape routes appears to be an option of choice to optimize oxaliplatin efficiency.

Keywords: NADPH oxidase; calpain; chemoresistance; colorectal cancer; oxaliplatin.