Retinoblastoma protein regulates the crosstalk between autophagy and apoptosis, and favors glioblastoma resistance to etoposide

Deborah Biasoli, Suzana A Kahn, T A Cornelio, Milena Bastos Furtado, Loraine Campanati, H Chneiweiss, V Moura-Neto, H L Borges

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52 Citations (Scopus)


Glioblastomas (GBMs) are devastating tumors of the central nervous system, with a poor prognosis of 1-year survival. This results from a high resistance of GBM tumor cells to current therapeutic options, including etoposide (VP-16). Understanding resistance mechanisms may thus open new therapeutic avenues. VP-16 is a topoisomerase inhibitor that causes replication fork stalling and, ultimately, the formation of DNA double-strand breaks and apoptotic cell death. Autophagy has been identified as a VP-16 treatment resistance mechanism in tumor cells. Retinoblastoma protein (RB) is a classical tumor suppressor owing to its role in G1/S cell cycle checkpoint, but recent data have shown RB participation in many other cellular functions, including, counterintuitively, negative regulation of apoptosis. As GBMs usually display an amplification of the EGFR signaling involving the RB protein pathway, we questioned whether RB might be involved in mechanisms of resistance of GBM cells to VP-16. We observed that RB silencing increased VP-16-induced DNA double-strand breaks and p53 activation. Moreover, RB knockdown increased VP-16-induced apoptosis in GBM cell lines and cancer stem cells, the latter being now recognized essential to resistance to treatments and recurrence. We also showed that VP-16 treatment induced autophagy, and that RB silencing impaired this process by inhibiting the fusion of autophagosomes with lysosomes. Taken together, our data suggest that RB silencing causes a blockage on the VP-16-induced autophagic flux, which is followed by apoptosis in GBM cell lines and in cancer stem cells. Therefore, we show here, for the first time, that RB represents a molecular link between autophagy and apoptosis, and a resistance marker in GBM, a discovery with potential importance for anticancer treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 11
Number of pages11
JournalCell Death & Disease
Issue numberArt. ID: e767
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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