Proteasome inhibitors, such as bortezomib (BZ) and carfilzomib (CFZ), have been suggested as treatments for various cancers. To utilize BZ and/or CFZ as effective therapeutics for treating melanoma, we studied their molecular mechanisms using B16-F1 melanoma cells. Flow cytometry of Annexin V-fluorescein isothiocyanate-labeled cells indicated apoptosis induction by treatment with BZ and CFZ. Apoptosis was evidenced by the activation of various caspases, including caspase 3, 8, 9, and 12. Treatment with BZ and CFZ induced endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, as indicated by an increase in eIF2α phosphorylation and the expression of ER stress-associated proteins, including GRP78, ATF6α, ATF4, XBP1, and CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein homologous protein. The effects of CFZ on ER stress and apoptosis were lower than that of BZ. Nevertheless, CFZ and BZ synergistically induced ER stress and apoptosis in B16-F1 cells. Furthermore, the combinational pharmacological interactions of BZ and CFZ against the growth of B16-F1 melanoma cells were assessed by calculating the combination index and dose-reduction index with the CompuSyn software. We found that the combination of CFZ and BZ at submaximal concentrations could obtain dose reduction by exerting synergistic inhibitory effects on cell growth. Moreover, this drug combination reduced tumor growth in C57BL/6 syngeneic mice. Taken together, these results suggest that CFZ in combination with BZ may be a beneficial and potential strategy for melanoma treatment.
Keywords: B16-F1 melanoma cells; apoptosis; bortezomib; carfilzomib; proteasome inhibitor.