Overexpression of caspase-3 restores sensitivity for drug-induced apoptosis in breast cancer cell lines with acquired drug resistance


  • K. Friedrich
  • T. Wieder
  • C. von Haefen
  • S. Radetzki
  • R. Jaenicke
  • K. Schulze-Osthoff
  • B. Doerken
  • P.T. Daniel


  • Oncogene


  • Oncogene 20 (22): 2749-2760


  • In this study, we asked whether overexpression of caspase-3, a central downstream executioner of apoptotic pathways, might sensitize breast cancer cells with acquired drug resistance (MT1/ADR) to drug-induced apoptosis. As control, we employed caspase-3 negative and caspase-3-transfected MCF-7 cells. Whereas mock-transfected MCF-7 cells were resistent to epirubicin, etoposide and paclitaxel (taxol), the same drugs led to breakdown of nuclear DNA in caspase-3-transfected MCF-7 cells. MT1/ADR cells express low levels of wild type caspase-3 but show defective caspase activation and apoptosis upon drug exposure. These cells also display a less efficient activation of the mitochondrial permeability transition. Caspase-3-transfected MT1/ADR clones showed a 2.8-fold increase in the protein level and a 3.7-fold higher specific enzyme activity. Procaspase-3 overexpression was not toxic and did not affect background apoptosis. Interestingly, procaspase-3-transfected MT1/ADR cells were more sensitive to cytotoxic drugs as compared with vector-transfected controls and DNA fragmentation nearly reached the levels of the original drug sensitive MT1 cells. Thus, overexpression of caspase-3 enhances chemosensitivity especially in situations where activation of the mitochondrial apoptosome is disturbed.