Evasion of apoptosis contributes to radioresistance of glioblastoma, calling for novel strategies to overcome apoptosis resistance. In the present study, we investigated the potential of the small molecule Smac mimetic BV6 to modulate radiosensitivity of glioblastoma cells. Here, we identify a novel pro-apoptotic function of NF-κB in γ-irradiation-induced apoptosis of glioblastoma cells by demonstrating for the first time that NF-κB is critically required for Smac mimetic-mediated radiosensitization. BV6 significantly increases γ-irradiation-triggered apoptosis in several glioblastoma cell lines in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Calculation of combination index (CI) reveals that the interaction of BV6 and γ-irradiation is highly synergistic (CI value <0.3). Molecular studies show that BV6 stimulates NF-κB activation, which is critical for radiosensitization, since genetic inhibition of NF-κB by overexpression of the dominant-negative superrepressor IκBα-SR significantly decreases BV6- and γ-irradiation-induced apoptosis. Also, the BV6-mediated enhancement of γ-irradiation-triggered caspase activation, drop of mitochondrial membrane potential and cytochrome c release is abolished in cells overexpressing IκBα-SR. Similarly, NF-κB inhibition by ectopic expression of a kinase dead mutant of IKKβ prevents the BV6-mediated sensitization for γ-irradiation. The clinical relevance is underscored by experiments with primary tumor samples showing that BV6 sensitizes primary cultured glioma cells as well as glioblastoma-initiating cancer stem cells derived from surgical specimens for γ-irradiation. In conclusion, we identify NF-κB as a critical mediator of Smac mimetic-conferred radiosensitization of glioblastoma cells. These results have important implications for the development of Smac mimetic-based combination protocols for radiosensitization of glioblastoma.
- Received March 24, 2011.
- Revision received August 9, 2011.
- Accepted August 15, 2011.
- Copyright © 2011, American Association for Cancer Research.