Bcl-2/Bcl-xL inhibitor navitoclax increases the antitumor effect of Chk1 inhibitor prexasertib by inducing apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells via inhibition of Bcl-xL but not Bcl-2


In our previous study, we showed that prexasertib, a checkpoint kinase 1 (Chk1) inhibitor, enhances the effects of standard drugs for pancreatic cancer, including gemcitabine (GEM), S-1, and the combination of GEM and S-1 (GS). The combination of prexasertib and GS has a strong antitumor effect and induces apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells by downregulating anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2. In the present study, we investigated the combined effect of GEM, S-1, and prexasertib with a selective Bcl-2 inhibitor (venetoclax) and a non-selective Bcl-2 inhibitor (navitoclax) in SUIT-2 pancreatic cancer cells. An MTT assay revealed that the combination of prexasertib with navitoclax showed a synergistic effect but the combination with venetoclax did not. Investigation of the pancreatic cancer cell lines SUIT-2, MIA PaCa-2, and BxPC-3 revealed that BxPC-3 also showed a high synergistic effect when combined with prexasertib and navitoclax but not venetoclax. Mechanistic analysis of the combined effect showed that apoptosis was induced. Bcl-2 knockdown with siRNA and prexasertib treatment did not induce apoptosis, whereas Bcl-xL knockdown with siRNA and prexasertib treatment resulted in strong induction of apoptosis. In addition, among the three cell lines, the combined effect of prexasertib and navitoclax resulted in increased apoptotic cell death because the protein expression levels of Bcl-xL and Chk1 were higher. Our results demonstrate that the combination of prexasertib and navitoclax has a strong antitumor effect and induces apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells by downregulating Bcl-xL. Simultaneous inhibition of Chk1 and Bcl-xL could be a new strategy for treating pancreatic cancer.

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection, and analysis were performed by YM. KT coordinated the experiments and the writing of the manuscript. OT supervised the research and experiments. KW, MH, and TH reviewed the data and coordinated the writing of the manuscript. YM coordinated the scientific work and the writing of the manuscript. All authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Yoshihito Morimoto.

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Morimoto, Y., Takada, K., Takeuchi, O. et al. Bcl-2/Bcl-xL inhibitor navitoclax increases the antitumor effect of Chk1 inhibitor prexasertib by inducing apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells via inhibition of Bcl-xL but not Bcl-2. Mol Cell Biochem (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11010-020-03796-6

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  • Prexasertib
  • Venetoclax
  • Navitoclax
  • Checkpoint kinase 1
  • Bcl-2
  • Bcl-xL