Smac mimetic and demethylating agents synergistically trigger cell death in acute myeloid leukemia cells and overcome apoptosis resistance by inducing necroptosis

  • Evasion of apoptosis, for example, by inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) proteins, contributes to treatment resistance and poor outcome in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Here we identify a novel synergistic interaction between the small-molecule second mitochondria-derived activator of caspases (Smac) mimetic BV6, which antagonizes X-linked IAP, cellular IAP (cIAP)1 and cIAP2, and the demethylating agents 5-azacytidine or 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine (DAC) to induce cell death in AML cells, including apoptosis-resistant cells. Calculation of combination index (CI) confirms that this drug combination is highly synergistic (CI 0.02–0.4). In contrast, BV6 and DAC at equimolar concentrations do not cause synergistic toxicity against normal peripheral blood lymphocytes, pointing to some tumor cell selectivity. Molecular studies reveal that BV6 and DAC cooperate to trigger the activation of caspases, mitochondrial perturbations and DNA fragmentation, consistent with apoptotic cell death. However, the broad-range caspase inhibitor N-benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp-fluoromethylketone (zVAD.fmk) fails to protect against BV6/DAC-induced cell death and even significantly increases the percentage of Annexin-V/propidium iodide double-positive cells. Importantly, BV6/DAC-induced cell death in the presence of zVAD.fmk is significantly reduced by pharmacological inhibition of key components of necroptosis signaling, that is, receptor-interacting protein (RIP) 1 using necrostatin-1 or mixed lineage kinase domain-like protein (MLKL) using necrosulfonamide. This indicates a switch from BV6/DAC-induced cell death from apoptosis to necroptosis upon caspase inhibition. Thus, BV6 cooperates with demethylating agents to induce cell death in AML cells and circumvents apoptosis resistance via a switch to necroptosis as an alternative mode of cell death. The identification of a novel synergism of BV6 and demethylating agents has important implications for the development of new treatment strategies for AML.

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Author:L. Steinhart, Katharina Belz, Simone FuldaORCiDGND
Pubmed Id:
Parent Title (English):Cell death & disease
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
Place of publication:London [u.a.]
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2013/09/12
Date of first Publication:2013/09/12
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2013/09/18
Tag:RIP1; Smac; apoptosis; leukemia; necroptosis
Page Number:12
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit
Supplementary Information (pdf 208K)
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-Nicht kommerziell-Keine Bearbeitung 3.0