Sensitization of apoptotically-resistant breast carcinoma cells to TNF and TRAIL by inhibition of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling.

Christopher B. Weldon, Amanda P. Parker, Daniel Patten, Steven Elliott, Yan Tang, Daniel E. Frigo, Christine M. Dugan, Erin L. Coakley, Nancy N. Butler, John L. Clayton, Jawed Alam, Tyler J. Curiel, Barbara S. Beckman, Bernard M. Jaffe, Matthew E. Burow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade is a critical component in the regulation of cell survival and proliferation decisions. In breast carcinoma cells, activation of the p38-MAPK member of this family occurs in response to pro-inflammatory cytokines and cellular stress. The involvement of p38-MAPK in the activation of the transcription factor, NF-kappaB, suggests a potential role and mechanism for regulation of cell survival and drug resistance. Generation of the resistant MCF-7 variant (MCF-7TN-R) was achieved by prolonged exposure of MCF-7N cells to increasing concentrations of TNF. Differences in MAPK activation and function in the MCF-7 cell variants were determined. The role of the p38-MAPK pathway in regulation of resistance was determined using pharmacological (SB 203580) or molecular [Dominant Inhibitory (DI)-p38] inhibition. The effect of p38 inhibition on NF-kappaB transcriptional activation was analyzed. As compared to the sensitive MCF-7N parent cell line, the MCF-7TN-R cell line displayed significant resistance to TNF- and TRAIL-induced cell death. Analysis of the expression and phosphorylation of members of the MAPK family revealed an increased basal activation of p38 in the MCF-7TN-R variant. The p38-mediated phosphorylation and transcriptional activity were suppressed by pharmacologic inhibition with SB 230580. Treatment of MCF-7TN-R cells with SB partially restored sensitivity to TNF-induced cell death. In addition, use of a DI-p38 construct with or without the addition to TNF induced cell death, thus restoring TNF-sensitivity to these cells. The ability of p38 inhibition to restore apoptotic sensitivity was correlated with suppression of the TNF-induced cell survival pathway, NF-kappaB. The increased activation of p38-MAPK in MCF-7TN-R cells demonstrates that this signaling pathway through activation of NF-kappaB is an important route for control of resistance to cell death in breast carcinoma. Molecular and pharmacological inhibition of p38-MAPK signaling may represent a mechanism for sensitizing cancer cells to chemotherapeutic regimens and restoration of apoptotic signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1473-1480
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Oncology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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