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Cancer cell sensitivity to bortezomib is associated with survivin expression and p53 status but not cancer cell types

Xiang Ling1, Diane Calinski1, Asher A Chanan-Khan23, Muxiang Zhou4 and Fengzhi Li13*

Author Affiliations

1 Departments of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York 14263, USA

2 Department of Medicine, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York 14263, USA

3 The Multiple Myeloma Research Group, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York 14263, USA

4 Department of Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA

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Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research 2010, 29:8  doi:10.1186/1756-9966-29-8

Published: 22 January 2010

Abstract

Background

Survivin is known playing a role in drug resistance. However, its role in bortezomib-mediated inhibition of growth and induction of apoptosis is unclear. There are conflicting reports for the effect of bortezomib on survivin expression, which lacks of a plausible explanation. Methods: In this study, we tested cancer cells with both p53 wild type and mutant/null background for the relationship of bortezomib resistance with survivin expression and p53 status using MTT assay, flow cytometry, DNA fragmentation, caspase activation, western blots and RNAi technology.

Results

We found that cancer cells with wild type p53 show a low level expression of survivin and are sensitive to treatment with bortezomib, while cancer cells with a mutant or null p53 show a high level expression of survivin and are resistant to bortezomib-mediated apoptosis induction. However, silencing of survivin expression utilizing survivin mRNA-specific siRNA/shRNA in p53 mutant or null cells sensitized cancer cells to bortezomib mediated apoptosis induction, suggesting a role for survivin in bortezomib resistance. We further noted that modulation of survivin expression by bortezomib is dependent on p53 status but independent of cancer cell types. In cancer cells with mutated p53 or p53 null, bortezomib appears to induce survivin expression, while in cancer cells with wild type p53, bortezomib downregulates or shows no significant effect on survivin expression, which is dependent on the drug concentration, cell line and exposure time.

Conclusions

Our findings, for the first time, unify the current inconsistent findings for bortezomib treatment and survivin expression, and linked the effect of bortezomib on survivin expression, apoptosis induction and bortezomib resistance in the relationship with p53 status, which is independent of cancer cell types. Further mechanistic studies along with this line may impact the optimal clinical application of bortezomib in solid cancer therapeutics.