Research Papers:

Infliction of proteotoxic stresses by impairment of the unfolded protein response or proteasomal inhibition as a therapeutic strategy for mast cell leukemia

Thomas Wilhelm, Fabian Bick, Kerstin Peters, Vrinda Mohta, Boaz Tirosh, John B. Patterson, Behzad Kharabi-Masouleh and Michael Huber _

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:2984-3000. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.23354

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Thomas Wilhelm1, Fabian Bick1, Kerstin Peters1, Vrinda Mohta1, Boaz Tirosh2, John B. Patterson3, Behzad Kharabi-Masouleh4 and Michael Huber1

1 Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Immunology, Medical Faculty, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany

2 The Institute of Drug Research, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel

3 Fosun Orinove, Inc., Newbury Park, CA, USA

4 Department of Hematology, Oncology, Hemostaseology and Stem Cell Transplantation, Medical Faculty, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany

Correspondence to:

Michael Huber, email:

Keywords: IRE1α; proteasome; proteostasis; stress kinase; XBP1

Received: October 07, 2017 Accepted: December 03, 2017 Published: December 17, 2017


The intensity and duration of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress converts the unfolded protein response (UPR) from an adaptive into a terminal response. The first regulates homeostasis, the latter triggers apoptosis. Cells that rapidly proliferate and possess developed secretory capabilities, such as leukemia cells, depend on an efficiently operating UPR to maintain proteostasis. Activation of terminal UPR by either blockade of adaptive UPR or exaggeration of ER stress has been explored as a novel approach in cancer therapy. For mast cell leukemia (MCL) the efficacy of both approaches, by utilizing the KITV560G,D816V-positive MCL cell line HMC-1.2, was investigated. We show that HMC-1.2 cells display a tonic activation of the IRE1α arm of the UPR, which constitutively generates spliced XBP1. Inhibition of IRE1α by different types of inhibitors (MKC-8866, STF-083010, and KIRA6) suppressed proliferation at concentrations needed for blockade of IRE1α-mediated XBP1 splicing. At higher concentrations, these inhibitors triggered an apoptotic response. Blocking the proteasome by bortezomib, which confers an exaggerated UPR, resulted in a marked cytotoxic response. Bortezomib treatment also caused activation of the kinase JNK, which played a pro-proliferative and anti-apoptotic role. Hence, the combination of bortezomib with a JNK inhibitor synergized to induce cell death. In summary, the UPR can be addressed as an effective therapeutic target against KITD816V-positive MCL.

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