Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Varsha Gandhi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Juan Fueyo-Margareto, M.D.

Committee Member

Peng Huang, M.D. Ph.D.

Committee Member

Reuben Lotan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Deepa Sampath, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Christine Stellrecht, Ph.D.


Heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) is an abundant molecular chaperone that regulates the functional stability of client oncoproteins, such as STAT3, Raf-1 and Akt, which play a role in the survival of malignant cells. The chaperone function of HSP90 is driven by the binding and hydrolysis of ATP. The geldanamycin analog, 17-AAG, binds to the ATP pocket of HSP90 leading to the degradation of client proteins. However, treatment with 17-AAG results in the elevation of the levels of antiapoptotic proteins HSP70 and HSP27, which may lead to cell death resistance. The increase in HSP70 and HSP27 protein levels is due to the activation of the transcription factor HSF-1 binding to the promoter region of HSP70 and HSP27 genes. HSF-1 binding subsequently promotes HSP70 and HSP27 gene expression. Based on this, I hypothesized that inhibition of transcription/translation of HSP or client proteins would enhance 17-AAG-mediated cytotoxicity. Multiple myeloma (MM) cell lines MM.1S, RPMI-8226, and U266 were used as a model. To test this hypothesis, two different strategies were used.

For the first approach, a transcription inhibitor was combined with 17-AAG. The established transcription inhibitor Actinomycin D (Act D), used in the clinic, intercalates into DNA and blocks RNA elongation. Stress inducible (HSP90á, HSP70 and HSP27) and constitutive (HSP90â and HSC70) mRNA and protein levels were measured using real time RT-PCR and immunoblot assays. Treatment with 0.5 µM 17-AAG for 8 hours resulted in the induction of all HSP transcript and protein levels in the MM cell lines. This induction of HSP mRNA levels was diminished by 0.05 µg/mL Act D for 12 hours in the combination treatment, except for HSP70. At the protein level, Act D abrogated the 17-AAG-mediated induction of all HSP expression levels, including HSP70. Cytotoxic evaluation (Annexin V/7-AAD assay) of Act D in combination with 17-AAG suggested additive or more than additive interactions.

For the second strategy, an agent that affected bioenergy production in addition to targeting transcription and translation was used. Since ATP is necessary for the proper folding and maturation of client proteins by HSP90, ATP depletion should lead to a decrease in client protein levels. The transcription and translation inhibitor 8-Chloro-Adenosine (8-Cl-Ado), currently in clinical trials, is metabolized into its cytotoxic form 8-Cl-ATP causing a parallel decrease of the cellular ATP pool. Treatment with 0.5 µM 17-AAG for 8 hours resulted in the induction of all HSP transcript and protein levels in the three MM cell lines evaluated. In the combination treatment, 10 µM 8-Cl-Ado for 20 hours did not abrogate the induction of HSP mRNA or protein levels. Since cellular bioenergy is necessary for the stabilization of oncoproteins by HSP90, immunoblot assays analyzing for expression levels of client proteins such as STAT3, Raf-1, and Akt were performed. Immunoblot assays detecting for the phosphorylation status of the translation repressor 4E-BP1, whose activity is modulated by upstream kinases sensitive to changes in ATP levels, were also performed. The hypophosphorylated state of 4E-BP1 leads to translation repression. Data indicated that treatment with 17-AAG alone resulted in a minor (<10%) change in STAT3, Raf-1, and Akt protein levels, while no change was observed for 4E-BP1. The combination treatment resulted in more than 50% decrease of the client protein levels and hypophosphorylation of 4E-BP1 in all MM cell lines. Treatment with 8-Cl-Ado alone resulted in less than 30% decrease in client protein levels as well as a decrease in 4E-BP1 phosphorylation. Cytotoxic evaluation of 8-Cl-Ado in combination with 17-AAG resulted in more than additive cytotoxicity when drugs were combined in a sequential manner.

In summary, these data suggest that the mechanism-based combination of agents that target transcription, translation, or decrease cellular bioenergy with 17-AAG results in increase cytotoxicity when compared to the single agents. Such combination strategies may be applied in the clinic since these drugs are established chemotherapeutic agents or currently in clinical trials.


17-allylamino-17demethoxygeldanamycin, 8-chloro-adenosine, actinomycin D, heat shock proteins, heat shock factor, multiple myeloma, transcription inhibitor