Bax redistribution induces apoptosis resistance and selective stress sensitivity in human HCC

Kathrin Funk, Carolin Czauderna, Ramona Klesse, Diana Becker, Jovana Hajduk, Aline Oelgeklaus, Frank Reichenbach, Franziska Fimm-Todt, Joachim Lauterwasser, Peter R. Galle, Jens U. Marquardt, Frank Edlich*

*Korrespondierende/r Autor/-in für diese Arbeit


Cancer therapies induce differential cell responses, ranging from efficient cell death to complete stress resistance. The BCL-2 proteins BAX and BAK govern the cellular decision between survival and mitochondrial apoptosis. Therefore, the status of BAX/BAK regulation can predict the cellular apoptosis predisposition. Relative BAX/BAK localization was analyzed in tumor and corresponding non-tumor samples from 34 hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients. Key transcriptome changes and gene expression profiles related to the status of BAX regulation were applied to two independent cohorts including over 500 HCC patients. The prediction of apoptotic response was tested using cell lines and polyclonal tumor isolates. Cellular protection from BAX was confirmed by challenging cells with mitochondrial BAX. We discovered a subgroup of HCC with selective protection from BAX-dependent apoptosis. BAX-protected tumors showed enrichment of signaling pathways associated with oxidative stress response and DNA repair as well as increased genetic heterogeneity. Gene expression profiles characteristic to BAX-specific protection are enriched in poorly differentiated HCCs and show significant association to the overall survival of HCC patients. Consistently, addiction to DNA repair of BAX-protected cancer cells caused selective sensitivity to PARP inhibition. Molecular characteristics of BAX-protected HCC were enriched in cells challenged with mitochondrial BAX. Our results demonstrate that predisposition to BAX activation impairs tumor biology in HCC. Selective BAX inhibition or lack thereof delineates distinct subgroups of HCC patients with molecular features and differential response pattern to apoptotic stimuli and inhibition of DNA repair mechanisms.

PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 06.2020


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