Targeting redox homeostasis in rhabdomyosarcoma cells : GSH-depleting agents enhance auranofin-induced cell death

  • Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) cells have recently been reported to be sensitive to oxidative stress. Therefore, we investigated whether concomitant inhibition of the two main antioxidant defense pathways, that is, the thioredoxin (TRX) and the glutathione (GSH) systems, presents a new strategy to trigger cell death in RMS. In this study, we discover that GSH-depleting agents, i.e. γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase inhibitor, buthionine sulfoximine (BSO) or the cystine/glutamate antiporter inhibitor erastin (ERA), synergize with thioredoxin reductase (TrxR) inhibitor auranofin (AUR) to induce cell death in RMS cells. Interestingly, AUR causes accumulation of ubiquitinated proteins when combined with BSO or ERA, in line with recent reports showing that AUR inhibits the proteasome besides TrxR. Consistently, AUR/BSO or AUR/ERA cotreatment increases ubiquitination and expression of the short-lived proteins NOXA and MCL-1, accompanied by increased binding of NOXA to MCL-1. Notably, NOXA knockdown significantly rescues RMS cells from AUR/BSO- or AUR/ERA-induced cell death. In addition, AUR acts together with BSO or ERA to stimulate BAX/BAK and caspase activation. Of note, BSO or ERA abolish the AUR-stimulated increase in GSH levels, leading to reduced GSH levels upon cotreatment. Although AUR/BSO or AUR/ERA cotreatment enhances reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, only thiol-containing antioxidants (i.e., N-acetylcysteine (NAC), GSH), but not the non-thiol-containing ROS scavenger α-Tocopherol consistently suppress AUR/BSO- and AUR/ERA-stimulated cell death in both cell lines. Importantly, re-supply of GSH or its precursor NAC completely prevents AUR/ERA- and AUR/BSO-induced accumulation of ubiquitinated proteins, NOXA upregulation and cell death, indicating that GSH depletion rather than ROS production is critical for AUR/BSO- or AUR/ERA-mediated cell death. Thus, by demonstrating that GSH-depleting agents enhance the antitumor activity of AUR, we highlight new treatment options for RMS by targeting the redox homeostasis.

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Author:Karoline Johanna Habermann, Leon David GrünewaldORCiDGND, Sjoerd van WijkORCiDGND, Simone FuldaORCiDGND
Pubmed Id:
Parent Title (English):Cell death & disease
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
Place of publication:London [u. a.]
Contributor(s):G. Raschellà
Document Type:Article
Year of Completion:2017
Date of first Publication:2017/10/05
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2018/06/14
Tag:Apoptosis; Drug therapy; Homeostasis; Sarcoma
Issue:10, e3067
Page Number:14
First Page:1
Last Page:14
Rights and permissions: Cell Death and Disease is an open-access journal published by Nature Publishing Group. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit
Institutes:Medizin / Medizin
Dewey Decimal Classification:6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 61 Medizin und Gesundheit / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0