AP-1/cJun, NF-κB and STAT3 transcription factors control expression of numerous genes, which regulate critical cell functions including proliferation, survival and apoptosis. Sodium arsenite is known to suppress both the IKK-NF-κB and JAK2-STAT3 signaling pathways and to activate the MAPK/JNK-cJun pathways, thereby committing some cancers to undergo apoptosis. Indeed, sodium arsenite is an effective drug for the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia with little nonspecific toxicity. Malignant melanoma is highly refractory to conventional radio- and chemotherapy. In the present study, we observed strong effects of sodium arsenite treatment on upregulation of TRAIL-mediated apoptosis in human and mouse melanomas. Arsenite treatment upregulated surface levels of death receptors, TRAIL-R1 and TRAIL-R2, through increased translocation of these proteins from cytoplasm to the cell surface. Furthermore, activation of cJun and suppression of NF-κB by sodium arsenite resulted in upregulation of the endogenous TRAIL and downregulation of the cFLIP gene expression (which encodes one of the main anti-apoptotic proteins in melanomas) followed by cFLIP protein degradation and, finally, by acceleration of TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Direct suppression of cFLIP expression by cFLIP RNAi also accelerated TRAIL-induced apoptosis in these melanomas, while COX-2 suppression substantially increased levels of both TRAIL-induced and arsenite-induced apoptosis. In contrast, overexpression of permanently active AKTmyr inhibited TRAIL-mediated apoptosis via downregulation of TRAIL-R1 levels. Finally, AKT overactivation increased melanoma survival in cell culture and dramatically accelerated growth of melanoma transplant in vivo, highlighting a role of AKT suppression for effective anticancer treatment
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