Disulfide bond-disrupting agents activate the tumor necrosis family-related apoptosis-inducing ligand/death receptor 5 pathway

Mengxiong Wang, Mary E. Law, Bradley J. Davis, Elham Yaaghubi, Amanda F. Ghilardi, Renan B. Ferreira, Chi Wu Chiang, Olga A. Guryanova, Daniel Kopinke, Coy D. Heldermon, Ronald K. Castellano, Brian K. Law

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Disulfide bond-disrupting agents (DDAs) are a new chemical class of agents recently shown to have activity against breast tumors in animal models. Blockade of tumor growth is associated with downregulation of EGFR, HER2, and HER3 and reduced Akt phosphorylation, as well as the induction of endoplasmic reticulum stress. However, it is not known how DDAs trigger cancer cell death without affecting nontransformed cells. As demonstrated here, DDAs are the first compounds identified that upregulate the TRAIL receptor DR5 through transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms to activate the extrinsic cell death pathway. At the protein level, DDAs alter DR5 disulfide bonding to increase steady-state DR5 levels and oligomerization, leading to downstream caspase 8 and 3 activation. DDAs and TRAIL synergize to kill cancer cells and are cytotoxic to HER2+ cancer cells with acquired resistance to the EGFR/HER2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor Lapatinib. Investigation of the mechanisms responsible for DDA selectivity for cancer cells reveals that DDA-induced upregulation of DR5 is enhanced in the context of EGFR overexpression. DDA-induced cytotoxicity is strongly amplified by MYC overexpression. This is consistent with the known potentiation of TRAIL-mediated cell death by MYC. Together, the results demonstrate selective DDA lethality against oncogene-transformed cells, DDA-mediated DR5 upregulation, and protein stabilization, and that DDAs have activity against drug-resistant cancer cells. Our results indicate that DDAs are unique in causing DR5 accumulation and oligomerization and inducing downstream caspase activation and cancer cell death through mechanisms involving altered DR5 disulfide bonding. DDAs thus represent a new therapeutic approach to cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number153
JournalCell Death Discovery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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