Open Access Research article

TUCAN/CARDINAL/CARD8 and apoptosis resistance in non-small cell lung cancer cells

Agnieszka Checinska1, Giuseppe Giaccone1, Bas SJ Hoogeland1, Carlos G Ferreira12, Jose A Rodriguez1 and Frank AE Kruyt1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical Oncology, VU University Medical Center, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2 Department of Clinical and Translational Research, Instituto Nacional de Cancer, 20230-092 Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:166  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-166

Published: 23 June 2006



Activation of caspase-9 in response to treatment with cytotoxic drugs is inhibited in NSCLC cells, which may contribute to the clinical resistance to chemotherapy shown in this type of tumor. The aim of the present study was to investigate the mechanism of caspase-9 inhibition, with a focus on a possible role of TUCAN as caspase-9 inhibitor and a determinant of chemosensitivity in NSCLC cells.


Caspase-9 processing and activation were investigated by Western blot and by measuring the cleavage of the fluorogenic substrate LEHD-AFC. Proteins interaction assays, and RNA interference in combination with cell viability and apoptosis assays were used to investigate the involvement of TUCAN in inhibition of caspase-9 and chemosensitivity NSCLC.


Analysis of the components of the caspase-9 activation pathway in a panel of NSCLC and SCLC cells revealed no intrinsic defects. In fact, exogenously added cytochrome c and dATP triggered procaspase-9 cleavage and activation in lung cancer cell lysates, suggesting the presence of an inhibitor. The reported inhibitor of caspase-9, TUCAN, was exclusively expressed in NSCLC cells. However, interactions between TUCAN and procaspase-9 could not be demonstrated by any of the assays used. Furthermore, RNA interference-mediated down-regulation of TUCAN did not restore cisplatin-induced caspase-9 activation or affect cisplatin sensitivity in NSCLC cells.


These results indicate that procaspase-9 is functional and can undergo activation and full processing in lung cancer cell extracts in the presence of additional cytochrome c/dATP. However, the inhibitory protein TUCAN does not play a role in inhibition of procaspase-9 and in determining the sensitivity to cisplatin in NSCLC.