In vitro susceptibility to TRAIL-induced apoptosis of acute leukemia cells in the context of TRAIL receptor gene expression and constitutive NF-kappaB activity


  • C. Wuchter
  • D. Krappmann
  • Z. Cai
  • V. Ruppert
  • C. Scheidereit
  • B. Doerken
  • W.D. Ludwig
  • L. Karawajew


  • Leukemia


  • Leukemia 15 (6): 921-928


  • The TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is currently under evaluation as a possible (co-)therapeutic in cancer treatment. We therefore examined 129 cell samples from patients with de novo acute leukemia as to their constitutive susceptibility to TRAIL-induced apoptosis in vitro. Only 21 (16%) cell samples revealed at least 10% TRAIL-susceptible cells/sample as detected by flow cytometric annexinV staining after 24 h culture compared with medium control. Precursor B cell ALL samples (11 (27%) of 41) were more TRAIL-susceptible compared with AML (5 (9%) of 54; P < 0.05) but not compared with precursor T cell ALL (5 (15%) of 34; P = 0.20). Furthermore, we examined constitutive mRNA expression levels of TRAIL receptors R1-R4 by semi-quantitative RT-PCR (n=58). Expression levels were heterogeneous, however, there was no significant correlation between the expression of the signal-transducing receptors (R1, R2) as well as of the decoy receptors (R3, R4) and TRAIL sensitivity in this series. Constitutive NF-κB activity has been shown to influence TRAIL susceptibility of leukemic cells. In 39 leukemic cell samples examined, we found a generally high NF-κB activity as detected by electrophoretic mobility shift assay which did not differ between TRAIL-susceptible and TRAIL-resistant cases. Finally, 49 acute leukemic cell samples were coincubated with doxorubicin in vitro. Doxorubicin sensitized four of 35 initially TRAIL-resistant samples and augmented TRAIL-induced apoptosis in two of 14 TRAIL-susceptible samples. In summary, constitutive TRAIL susceptibility differs between leukemia subtypes and does not correlate with mRNA expression levels of the TRAIL receptors R1-R4 as well as constitutive NF-κB activation status. The observed sensitization of leukemic cells to TRAIL by doxorubicin in vitro indicates that TRAIL should be further evaluated as to its possible role as an in vivo cotherapeutic in acute leukemia.