NF-κB is activated in response to temozolomide in an AKT-dependent manner and confers protection against the growth suppressive effect of the drug

Simona Caporali, Lauretta Levati, Grazia Graziani, Alessia Muzi, Maria Grazia Atzori, Enzo Bonmassar, Giuseppe Palmieri, Paolo A. Ascierto, Stefania D'Atri

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Background: Most DNA-damaging chemotherapeutic agents activate the transcription factor nuclear factor κB (NF-κB). However, NF-κB activation can either protect from or contribute to the growth suppressive effects of the agent. We previously showed that the DNA-methylating drug temozolomide (TMZ) activates AKT, a positive modulator of NF-κB, in a mismatch repair (MMR) system-dependent manner. Here we investigated whether NF-κB is activated by TMZ and whether AKT is involved in this molecular event. We also evaluated the functional consequence of inhibiting NF-κB on tumor cell response to TMZ.Methods: AKT phosphorylation, NF-κB transcriptional activity, IκB-α degradation, NF-κB2/p52 generation, and RelA and NF-κB2/p52 nuclear translocation were investigated in TMZ-treated MMR-deficient (HCT116, 293TLα-) and/or MMR-proficient (HCT116/3-6, 293TLα+, M10) cells. AKT involvement in TMZ-induced activation of NF-κB was addressed in HCT116/3-6 and M10 cells transiently transfected with AKT1-targeting siRNA or using the isogenic MMR-proficient cell lines pUSE2 and KD12, expressing wild type or kinase-dead mutant AKT1. The effects of inhibiting NF-κB on sensitivity to TMZ were investigated in HCT116/3-6 and M10 cells using the NF-κB inhibitor NEMO-binding domain (NBD) peptide or an anti-RelA siRNA.Results: TMZ enhanced NF-κB transcriptional activity, activated AKT, induced IκB-α degradation and RelA nuclear translocation in HCT116/3-6 and M10 but not in HCT116 cells. In M10 cells, TMZ promoted NF-κB2/p52 generation and nuclear translocation and enhanced the secretion of IL-8 and MCP-1. TMZ induced RelA nuclear translocation also in 293TLα+ but not in 293TLα- cells. AKT1 silencing inhibited TMZ-induced IκB-α degradation and NF-κB2/p52 generation. Up-regulation of NF-κB transcriptional activity and nuclear translocation of RelA and NF-κB2/p52 in response to TMZ were impaired in KD12 cells. RelA silencing in HCT116/3-6 and M10 cells increased TMZ-induced growth suppression. In M10 cells NBD peptide reduced basal NF-κB activity, abrogated TMZ-induced up-regulation of NF-κB activity and increased sensitivity to TMZ. In HCT116/3-6 cells, the combined treatment with NBD peptide and TMZ produced additive growth inhibitory effects.Conclusion: NF-κB is activated in response to TMZ in a MMR- and AKT-dependent manner and confers protection against drug-induced cell growth inhibition. Our findings suggest that a clinical benefit could be obtained by combining TMZ with NF-κB inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number252
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 21 2012


  • AKT
  • Cell proliferation
  • Cell senescence
  • NEMO binding domain peptide
  • Nuclear factor κB
  • Temozolomide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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