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The proteasome inhibitor MG-132 sensitizes PC-3 prostate cancer cells to ionizing radiation by a DNA-PK-independent mechanism

Frank Pajonk1*, Arndt van Ophoven2, Christian Weissenberger3 and William H McBride1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Radiation Oncology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 10833 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA90095-1714, USA

2 Department of Urology, University Hospital Münster, Albert-Schweitzer-Straße 33, D-48149 Münster Germany

3 Department of Radiation Oncology, University Hospital Freiburg, Robert-Koch-Straße 3, D-79106 Freiburg, Germany

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BMC Cancer 2005, 5:76  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-5-76

Published: 7 July 2005



By modulating the expression levels of specific signal transduction molecules, the 26S proteasome plays a central role in determining cell cycle progression or arrest and cell survival or death in response to stress stimuli, including ionizing radiation. Inhibition of proteasome function by specific drugs results in cell cycle arrest, apoptosis and radiosensitization of many cancer cell lines. This study investigates whether there is also a concomitant increase in cellular radiosensitivity if proteasome inhibition occurs only transiently before radiation. Further, since proteasome inhibition has been shown to activate caspase-3, which is involved in apoptosis, and caspase-3 can cleave DNA-PKcs, which is involved in DNA-double strand repair, the hypothesis was tested that caspase-3 activation was essential for both apoptosis and radiosensitization following proteasome inhibition.


Prostate carcinoma PC-3 cells were treated with the reversible proteasome inhibitor MG-132. Cell cycle distribution, apoptosis, caspase-3 activity, DNA-PKcs protein levels and DNA-PK activity were monitored. Radiosensitivity was assessed using a clonogenic assay.


Inhibition of proteasome function caused cell cycle arrest and apoptosis but this did not involve early activation of caspase-3. Short-time inhibition of proteasome function also caused radiosensitization but this did not involve a decrease in DNA-PKcs protein levels or DNA-PK activity.


We conclude that caspase-dependent cleavage of DNA-PKcs during apoptosis does not contribute to the radiosensitizing effects of MG-132.