Molecular mechanisms of apoptosis induction in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Jessica Caroline Pahler, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


CLL is the most common adult leukemia in the Western World, yet very little is known about the biology of this disease. CLL cells have very high levels of NF-κB activity. Factors such as CD40 ligation and phorbol ester treatment induce NF-κB activity and also prevent apoptosis. Previous data from our laboratory demonstrated that MG-132, a proteasome inhibitor, blocked NF-κB activation and promoted apoptosis in CLL cells. These data suggested to us that NF-κB mediates survival in CLL. We examined NF-κB activity using two different chemotherapeutic agents, PS-341 and arsenic trioxide. PS-341, a proteasome inhibitor blocked NF-κB in CLL cells. This however, did not correlate with cell death. Resistant patient isolates displayed delayed Smac/DIABLO release in comparison to cytochrome c release. This suggests that IAPs are contributing to CLL cell survival and drug-resistance. Arsenic trioxide did not block NF-κB activity at therapeutic doses. However it was a potent inducer of apoptosis in CLL cells. We identified a novel mechanism by which arsenic induces increases in mitochondrial calcium to induce cytochrome c release and initiate apoptosis. Both PS-341 and arsenic trioxide are currently in Phase II clinical trials at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. We conclude that NF-κB is not critical for PS-341 or arsenic trioxide-mediated cell death.

Subject Area

Cellular biology

Recommended Citation

Pahler, Jessica Caroline, "Molecular mechanisms of apoptosis induction in chronic lymphocytic leukemia" (2001). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3017537.