The effects of proteasome inhibition on angiogenesis and autophagy in human prostate cancer cells

Keyi Zhu, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The proteasome degrades approximately 80% of intracellular proteins to maintain homeostasis. Proteasome inhibition is a validated therapeutic strategy, and currently, proteasome inhibitor bortezomib is FDA approved for the treatment of MM and MCL. Specific pathways affected by proteasome inhibition have been identified, but mechanisms of the anti-tumor effects of proteasome inhibition are not fully characterized and cancer cells display marked heterogeneity in terms of their sensitivity to proteasome inhibitor induced cell death. The antitumor effects of proteasome inhibition involve suppression of tumor angiogenesis and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression, but the mechanisms involved have not been clarified. In this dissertation I investigated the mechanisms underlying the effects of two proteasome inhibitors, bortezomib and NPI-0052, on VEGF expression in human prostate cancer cells. I found that proteasome inhibitors selectively downregulated hypoxia inducible factor 1alpha (HIF-1α) protein and its transcriptional activity to inhibit VEGF expression. Mechanistic studies demonstrated that proteasome inhibitors mediate the induction of the unfolded protein response (UPR) and that downregulation of HIF-1α is caused by eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α (eIF2α) phosphorylation and translation repression. Importantly, I showed that proteasome inhibitors activated the UPR in some cells but not in others. My observation may have implications for the design of combination regimens that are based on exploiting proteasome inhibitor-induced ER stress. Although proteasome inhibitors have shown modest activity on prostate cancer, there is general consensus that no single agent is likely to have significant activity in prostate cancer. In the second part of this dissertation I attempted to exploit the effects of proteasome inhibition on the UPR to design a combination therapy that would enhance cancer cell death. Autophagy is a lysosome dependent degradation pathway that functions to eliminate long-lived protein and subcellular structures. Targeting autophagy has been shown to inhibit tumors in preclinical studies. I found that inhibition of autophagy with chloroquine or 3-methyladenine enhanced proteasome inhibitor induced cell death and the effects were associated with increased intracellular stress as marked by aggresome formation. Multiple cancers appear to be resistant to proteasome inhibition treatment alone. The implications of synergy for the combined inhibition of autophagy and the proteasome would likely apply to other cancers aside from prostate cancer.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Zhu, Keyi, "The effects of proteasome inhibition on angiogenesis and autophagy in human prostate cancer cells" (2007). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3287365.