c-Rel is a critical mediator of NF-?B-dependent TRAIL resistance of pancreatic cancer cells.

C Geismann, F Grohmann, S Sebens, G Wirths, A Dreher, R Haesler, P Rosenstiel, C Hauser, J-H Egberts, A Trauzold, G Schneider, B Sipos, S Zeissig, S Schreiber, H Schaefer, A Arlt
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Cell death and disease
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Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) represents one of the deadliest malignancies with an overall life expectancy of 6 months despite current therapies. NF-?B signalling has been shown to be critical for this profound cell-autonomous resistance against chemotherapeutic drugs and death receptor-induced apoptosis, but little is known about the role of the c-Rel subunit in solid cancer and PDAC apoptosis control. In the present study, by analysis of genome-wide patterns of c-Rel-dependent gene expression, we were able to establish c-Rel as a critical regulator of tumour necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)-induced apoptosis in PDAC. TRAIL-resistant cells exhibited a strong TRAIL-inducible NF-?B activity, whereas TRAIL-sensitive cells displayed only a small increase in NF-?B-binding activity. Transfection with siRNA against c-Rel sensitized the TRAIL-resistant cells in a manner comparable to siRNA targeting the p65/RelA subunit. Gel-shift analysis revealed that c-Rel is part of the TRAIL-inducible NF-?B complex in PDAC. Array analysis identified NFATc2 as a c-Rel target gene among the 12 strongest TRAIL-inducible genes in apoptosis-resistant cells. In line, siRNA targeting c-Rel strongly reduced TRAIL-induced NFATc2 activity in TRAIL-resistant PDAC cells. Furthermore, siRNA targeting NFATc2 sensitized these PDAC cells against TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Finally, TRAIL-induced expression of COX-2 was diminished through siRNA targeting c-Rel or NFATc2 and pharmacologic inhibition of COX-2 with celecoxib or siRNA targeting COX-2, enhanced TRAIL apoptosis. In conclusion, we were able to delineate a novel c-Rel-, NFATc2- and COX-2-dependent antiapoptotic signalling pathway in PDAC with broad clinical implications for pharmaceutical intervention strategies.