Role of autophagy in cisplatin resistance in ovarian cancer cells [Signal Transduction]

May 2nd, 2014 by Wang, J., Wu, G. S.

Cisplatin-based treatment is the first line chemotherapy for several cancers including ovarian cancer. The development of cisplatin resistance results in treatment failure, but the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Here we show that the induction of autophagy plays an important role in cisplatin resistance in ovarian cancer cells. Specifically, we show that cisplatin resistance is correlated with autophagy induction in a panel of ovarian cancer cells but not in immortalized human ovarian surface epithelial cells. Mechanistically, cisplatin treatment activates ERK and subsequently promotes autophagy. The inhibition of ERK activation with MEK inhibitors or knockdown of ERK expression with siRNA decreases cisplatin-induced autophagy and subsequently sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to cisplatin-induced apoptosis. In ovarian cancer cells that have developed acquired cisplatin resistance, both ERK activation and autophagy induction are increased. Importantly, knockdown of ERK or inhibition of autophagy promotes cisplatin-induced apoptosis in acquired cisplatin resistant cells. Collectively, our data indicate that ERK-mediated autophagy can lead to cisplatin resistance and suggest that cisplatin resistance can be overcome by inhibition of autophagy in ovarian cancer cells.