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Identification of mTOR as a primary resistance factor of the IAP antagonist AT406 in hepatocellular carcinoma cells

Dysregulation of inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) proteins (IAPs) in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is often associated with poor prognosis. Here we showed that AT406, an IAP antagonist, was cytotoxic and pro-apoptotic to both established (HepG2, SMMC-7721 lines) and primary HCC cells. Activation of mTOR could be a key resistance factor of AT406 in HCC cells. mTOR inhibition (by OSI-027), kinase-dead mutation or knockdown remarkably enhanced AT406-induced lethality in HCC cells. Reversely, forced-activation of mTOR by adding SC79 or exogenous expressing a constitutively active S6K1 (T389E) attenuated AT406-induced cytotoxicity against HCC cells. We showed that AT406 induced degradation of IAPs (cIAP-1 and XIAP), but didn't affect another anti-apoptosis protein Mcl-1. Co-treatment of OSI-027 caused simultaneous Mcl-1 downregulation to overcome AT406's resistance. Significantly, shRNA knockdown of Mcl-1 remarkably facilitated AT406-induced apoptosis in HCC cells. In vivo, AT406 oral administration suppressed HepG2 tumor growth in nude mice. Its activity was potentiated with co-administration of OSI-027. We conclude that mTOR could be a key resistance factor of AT406 in HCC cells.

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S2624 OSI-027 OSI-027 is a selective and potent dual inhibitor of mTORC1 and mTORC2 with IC50 of 22 nM and 65 nM in cell-free assays, and more than 100-fold selectivity observed for mTOR than PI3Kα, PI3Kβ, PI3Kγ or DNA-PK. Phase 1. (15) (6)

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