Obatoclax impairs lysosomal function to block autophagy in cisplatin-sensitive and -resistant esophageal cancer cells
Resistance to cisplatin chemotherapy remains a major hurdle preventing effective treatment of many solid cancers. BAX and BAK are pivotal regulators of the mitochondrial apoptosis pathway, however little is known regarding their regulation in cisplatin resistant cells. Cisplatin induces DNA damage in both sensitive and resistant cells, however the latter exhibits a failure to initiate N-terminal exposure of mitochondrial BAK or mitochondrial SMAC release. Both phenotypes are highly sensitive to mitochondrial permeabilisation induced by exogenous BH3 domain peptides derived from BID, BIM, NOXA (which targets MCL-1 and A1), and there is no significant change in their prosurvival BCL2 protein expression profiles. Obatoclax, a small molecule inhibitor of pro-survival BCL-2 family proteins including MCL-1, decreases cell viability irrespective of platinum resistance status across a panel of cell lines selected for oxaliplatin resistance. In summary, selection for platinum resistance is associated with a block of mitochondrial death signalling upstream of BAX/BAK activation. Conservation of sensitivity to BH3 domain induced apoptosis can be exploited by agents such as obatoclax, which directly target the mitochondria and BCL-2 family.