Research Papers:

Gene expression profile induced by arsenic trioxide in chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells reveals a central role for heme oxygenase-1 in apoptosis and regulation of matrix metalloproteinase-9

Irene Amigo-Jiménez _, Elvira Bailón, Noemí Aguilera-Montilla, José A. García- Marco and Angeles García-Pardo

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:83359-83377. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.13091

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Irene Amigo-Jiménez1,*, Elvira Bailón1,*, Noemí Aguilera-Montilla1, José A. García-Marco2, Angeles García-Pardo1

1Cellular and Molecular Medicine Department, Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Madrid, Spain

2Molecular Cytogenetics Unit, Hematology Department, Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Puerta de Hierro-Majadahonda, Madrid, Spain

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Angeles García-Pardo, email: [email protected]

Keywords: CLL, arsenic trioxide, gene expression profile, HMOX1, MMP-9

Received: May 12, 2016     Accepted: October 21, 2016     Published: November 04, 2016


CLL remains an incurable disease in spite of the many new compounds being tested. Arsenic trioxide (ATO) induces apoptosis in all CLL cell types and could constitute an efficient therapy. To further explore this, we have studied the gene expression profile induced by ATO in CLL cells. ATO modulated many genes, largely involved in oxidative stress, being HMOX1 the most upregulated gene, also induced at the protein level. ATO also increased MMP-9, as we previously observed, both at the mRNA and protein level. Using specific inhibitors, qPCR analyses, and gene silencing approaches we demonstrate that upregulation of MMP-9 by ATO involved activation of the p38 MAPK/AP-1 signaling pathway. Moreover, gene silencing HMOX1 or inhibiting HMOX1 activity enhanced p38 MAPK phosphorylation and c-jun expression/activation, resulting in transcriptional upregulation of MMP-9. Overexpression of HMOX1 or enhancement of its activity, had the opposite effect. Cell viability analyses upon modulation of HMOX1 expression or activity demonstrated that HMOX1 had a pro-apoptotic role and enhanced the cytotoxic effect of ATO in CLL cells. We have therefore identified a new mechanism in which HMOX1 plays a central role in the response of CLL cells to ATO and in the regulation of the anti-apoptotic protein MMP-9. Thus, HMOX1 arises as a new therapeutic target in CLL and the combination of HMOX1 modulators with ATO may constitute an efficient therapeutic strategy in CLL.

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