Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) has been characterized as an anti-cancer therapeutic agent with prominent cancer cell selectivity over normal cells. However, breast cancer cells are generally resistant to TRAIL, thus limiting its therapeutic potential. In this study, we found that BIX-01294, a selective inhibitor of euchromatin histone methyltransferase 2/G9a, is a strong TRAIL sensitizer in breast cancer cells. The combination of BIX-01294 and TRAIL decreased cell viability and led to an increase in the annexin V/propidium iodide-positive cell population, DNA fragmentation, and caspase activation. BIX-01294 markedly increased death receptor 5 (DR5) expression, while silencing of DR5 using small interfering RNAs abolished the TRAIL-sensitizing effect of BIX-01294. Specifically, BIX-01294 induced C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP)-mediated DR5 gene transcriptional activation and DR5 promoter activation was induced by upregulation of the protein kinase R-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase-mediated activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4). Moreover, inhibition of reactive oxygen species by N-acetyl-L-cysteine efficiently blocked BIX-01294-induced DR5 upregulation by inhibiting ATF4/CHOP expression, leading to diminished sensitization to TRAIL. These findings suggest that BIX-01294 sensitizes breast cancer cells to TRAIL by upregulating ATF4/CHOP-dependent DR5 expression with a reactive oxygen species-dependent manner. Furthermore, combination treatment with BIX-01294 and TRAIL suppressed tumor growth and induced apoptosis in vivo. In conclusion, we found that epigenetic regulation can contribute to the development of resistance to cancer therapeutics such as TRAIL, and further studies of unfolded protein responses and the associated epigenetic regulatory mechanisms may lead to the discovery of new molecular targets for effective cancer therapy.
- human breast cancer cells