Research Papers:

TRAIL induces apoptosis in oral squamous carcinoma cells: a crosstalk with oncogenic Ras regulated cell surface expression of death receptor 5

Jun-jie Chen, Constantinos M. Mikelis, Yaqin Zhang, J. Silvio Gutkind and Baolin Zhang _

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Oncotarget. 2012; 4:206-217. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.813

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Jun-Jie Chen1, Constantinos M. Mikelis2, Yaqin Zhang1, J. Silvio Gutkind2, and Baolin Zhang1

1 Division of Therapeutic Proteins, Office of Biotechnology Products, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, MD

2 Oral and Pharyngeal Cancer Branch, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD


Baolin Zhang, email:

Keywords: oral cancer, TRAIL, death receptors, apoptosis, Ras, oncotarget

Received: January 03, 2013 Accepted: February 21, 2013 Published: February 23, 2013


TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) induces apoptosis through its death receptors (DRs) 4 and/or 5 expressed on the surface of target cells. The selectivity of TRAIL towards cancer cells has promoted clinical evaluation of recombinant human TRAIL (rhTRAIL) and its agonistic antibodies in treating several major human cancers including colon and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, little is known about their ability in killing oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) cells. In this study, we tested the apoptotic responses of a panel of seven human OSCC cell lines (HN31, HN30, HN12, HN6, HN4, Cal27, and OSCC3) to rhTRAIL and monoclonal antibodies against DR4 or DR5. We found that rhTRAIL is a potent inducer of apoptosis in most of the oral cancer cell lines tested both in vitro and in vivo. We also showed that DR5 was expressed on the surface of the tested cell lines which correlated with the cellular susceptibility to apoptosis induced by rhTRAIL and anti-DR5 antibody. By contrast, little or no DR4 was detected on the surface of OSCC3 and HN6 cells rendering cellular resistance to DR4 antibody and a reduced sensitivity to rhTRAIL. Notably, the overall TRAIL sensitivity correlated well with the levels of endogenous active Ras in the cell lines tested. Expression of a constitutively active Ras mutant (RasV12) in OSCC3 cells selectively upregulated surface expression of DR5, but not DR4, and restored TRAIL sensitivity. Our findings could have implications for the use of TRAIL receptor targeted therapies in the treatment of human OSCC tumors particularly the ones harboring constitutively active Ras mutant.

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