Tumor Biology

, Volume 37, Issue 8, pp 10685–10696 | Cite as

Enzymatically active cathepsin D sensitizes breast carcinoma cells to TRAIL

  • Blanka Jancekova
  • Eva Ondrouskova
  • Lucia Knopfova
  • Jan Smarda
  • Petr BenesEmail author
Original Article


Cathepsin D (CD), a ubiquitously expressed lysosomal aspartic protease, is upregulated in human breast carcinoma and many other tumor types. CD has been repeatedly reported to act as key mediator of apoptosis induced by various chemotherapeutics. However, there is still controversy over the role of enzymatic/proteolytic versus protein-protein interaction activities of CD in apoptotic signaling. The elucidation of molecular mechanism responsible for the effect of CD in the chemotherapy-induced cell death is crucial for development of an appropriate strategy to target this protease in cancer treatment. Therefore, the objective of this study was to investigate the molecular mechanism behind the CD-mediated regulation of tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)-induced cell death. For this purpose, MDA-MB-231 breast carcinoma cells with an increased level of wt CD (CD) or mutant enzymatically inactive CD (ΔCD) were subjected to TRAIL and the frequency of apoptosis was determined. Our results show that CD facilitates the TRAIL-induced apoptosis of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells in enzymatic activity-dependent manner. Moreover, the importance of endosomal/lysosomal acidification in this process was documented. Analysis of the potential substrates specifically cleaved by CD during the TRAIL-induced apoptosis confirmed caspase-8 and Bid proteins as the CD targets. Moreover, in search for protein regulators of apoptosis that can be cleaved by CD at physiologically relevant pH, we identified the Bcl-2 protein as a suitable candidate. The modulatory role of CD in cell response to TRAIL was also confirmed in another breast cancer cell line SKBR3. These experiments identified the CD enzymatic activity as a new factor affecting sensitivity of breast cancer cells to TRAIL.


Apoptosis Bcl-2 Breast cancer Caspases Cathepsin D TRAIL 



This work was funded by the European Regional Development Fund—projects FNUSA-ICRC (CZ.1.05/1.1.00/02.0123), CEB (CZ.1.07/2.3.00/20.0183), and by NT 13441-4/2012 (IGA, Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic), MEYS-NPS I-LO1413, MEYS-NPS II–LQ1605, and MH CZ–DRO (MMCI, 00209805) projects.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest


Supplementary material

13277_2016_4958_MOESM1_ESM.doc (499 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 499 kb)
13277_2016_4958_MOESM2_ESM.doc (182 kb)
ESM 2 (DOC 182 kb)


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Copyright information

© International Society of Oncology and BioMarkers (ISOBM) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Blanka Jancekova
    • 1
    • 2
  • Eva Ondrouskova
    • 1
    • 3
  • Lucia Knopfova
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jan Smarda
    • 1
  • Petr Benes
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Experimental Biology, Faculty of ScienceMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.International Clinical Research Center, Center for Biological and Cellular Engineering, St. Anne’sUniversity Hospital BrnoBrnoCzech Republic
  3. 3.Masaryk Memorial Cancer InstituteRECAMOBrnoCzech Republic

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