Acquired chemoresistance in pancreatic carcinoma cells: induced secretion of IL-1beta and NO lead to inactivation of caspases.

S Sebens Müerköster, J Lust, A Arlt, R Häsler, M Witt, T Sebens, S Schreiber, U R Fölsch, H Schäfer
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Pancreatic cancer exhibits profound chemoresistance resulting either from pre-existing (intrinsic) mechanisms, or from anticancer drug treatment itself (acquired chemoresistance). To identify molecular alterations leading to acquired chemoresistance, the chemosensitive pancreatic carcinoma cell line PT45-P1 was exposed to low-dose treatment with etoposide for 6 weeks. Afterwards, these cells (PT45-P1res) were much more resistant to high-dose treatment with anticancer drugs than parental cells. Among several differentially expressed genes in PT45-P1res cells, IL-1beta was most significantly upregulated, a finding in line with our previous observation that IL-1beta accounts for intrinsic chemoresistance of pancreatic carcinoma cells. Elevated IL-1beta expression in PT45-P1res cells was confirmed by real-time PCR and ELISA, and treatment with the IL-1 receptor antagonist restored drug-induced apoptosis. The increased IL-1beta secretion was accompanied by an elevated formation of nitric oxide (NO) and a NO-dependent inhibition of the etoposide-induced caspase-3/-7/-8/-9 activity. Caspase activation was restored either by the iNOS inhibitor 1400W, the reducing agent dithiothreitol or the IL-1 receptor antagonist, resulting in greater sensitivity towards anticancer drug treatment. Conversely, IL-1beta or the NO-donor SNAP decreased caspase activation and apoptosis in etoposide-treated PT45-P1 cells. These data confirm IL-1beta and NO as determinants of chemoresistance in pancreatic cancer, and indicate that the intrinsic and acquired chemoresistance rely to some extent on common molecular targets beneficial for improved therapeutical strategies.