Research Papers:

Cytokeratin 8/18 protects breast cancer cell lines from TRAIL-induced apoptosis

William P. Bozza, Yaqin Zhang and Baolin Zhang _

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:23264-23273. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.25297

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William P. Bozza1, Yaqin Zhang1 and Baolin Zhang1

1Office of Biotechnology Products, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, MD 20993, USA

Correspondence to:

Baolin Zhang, email: [email protected]

Keywords: death receptor; apoptosis; keratin 8; breast cancer; drug resistance

Received: January 20, 2018    Accepted: April 06, 2018    Published: May 01, 2018


TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) induces apoptosis by engaging its death receptors (DRs) 4 and/or 5 on targeted cells. Clinical attempts to stimulate this apoptotic pathway for cancer therapy, including the use of recombinant human TRAIL (rhTRAIL) or receptor agonistic antibodies, have been underway for over a decade. Unfortunately, these agents have only shown limited therapeutic effects due largely to tumor resistance arising from mechanisms yet to be defined. Here we show that intermediate filament proteins, keratin 8 and keratin 18 (K8/K18), negatively regulate TRAIL induced apoptosis. K8/K18 protein levels are consistently higher in TRAIL-resistant cells compared to TRAIL-sensitive cells in a panel of breast cancer cell lines. Blockade of K8 increased expression of DR5 on the surface of targeted cells and sensitized the cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Conversely, ectopic expression of K8/K18 downregulated DR5 protein expression. K8/K18 appears to negatively regulate apoptosis signaling via DR5 in breast cancer cells. Our findings warrant additional studies to determine if K8/K18 could be a predictor of tumor resistance to DR5-targeted therapies.

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