Background: Small molecule Nutlin-3 reactivates p53 in cancer cells by interacting with the complex between p53 and its repressor Mdm-2 and causing an increase in cancer cell apoptosis. Therefore, Nutlin-3 has potent anticancer properties. Clinical and experimental studies of Nutlin-3 showed that some cancer cells may lose sensitivity to this compound. Here we analyze possible mechanisms for insensitivity of cancer cells to Nutlin-3.
Methods: We applied upstream analysis approach implemented in geneXplain platform ( genexplain.com ) using TRANSFAC® database of transcription factors and their binding sites in genome and using TRANSPATH® database of signal transduction network with associated software such as Match™ and Composite Module Analyst (CMA).
Results: Using genome-wide gene expression profiling we compared several lung cancer cell lines and showed that expression programs executed in Nutlin-3 insensitive cell lines significantly differ from that of Nutlin-3 sensitive cell lines. Using artificial intelligence approach embed in CMA software, we identified a set of transcription factors cooperatively binding to the promoters of genes up-regulated in the Nutlin-3 insensitive cell lines. Graph analysis of signal transduction network upstream of these transcription factors allowed us to identify potential master-regulators responsible for maintaining such low sensitivity to Nutlin-3 with the most promising candidate mTOR, which acts in the context of activated PI3K pathway. These finding were validated experimentally using an array of chemical inhibitors.
Conclusions: We showed that the Nutlin-3 insensitive cell lines are actually highly sensitive to the dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor NVP-BEZ235, while no responding to either PI3K -specific LY294002 nor Bcl-XL specific 2,3-DCPE compounds.
Keywords: Lung cancer cell lines; Nutlin-3; Sensitivity to anticancer drugs; TRANSFAC; Transcription factors; p53.