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Docetaxel-induced prostate cancer cell death involves concomitant activation of caspase and lysosomal pathways and is attenuated by LEDGF/p75

Melanie Mediavilla-Varela12, Fabio J Pacheco123, Frankis Almaguel12, Jossymar Perez1, Eva Sahakian12, Tracy R Daniels4, Lai Sum Leoh12, Amelia Padilla12, Nathan R Wall12, Michael B Lilly15, Marino De Leon12 and Carlos A Casiano126*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA

2 Department of Basic Sciences, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA

3 Department of Biological Sciences, Centro Universitário Adventista de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

4 Division of Surgical Oncology, Department of Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA

5 Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, Irvine, CA 92868, USA

6 Department of Medicine, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA

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Molecular Cancer 2009, 8:68  doi:10.1186/1476-4598-8-68

Published: 28 August 2009



Hormone-refractory prostate cancer (HRPC) is characterized by poor response to chemotherapy and high mortality, particularly among African American men when compared to other racial/ethnic groups. It is generally accepted that docetaxel, the standard of care for chemotherapy of HRPC, primarily exerts tumor cell death by inducing mitotic catastrophe and caspase-dependent apoptosis following inhibition of microtubule depolymerization. However, there is a gap in our knowledge of mechanistic events underlying docetaxel-induced caspase-independent cell death, and the genes that antagonize this process. This knowledge is important for circumventing HRPC chemoresistance and reducing disparities in prostate cancer mortality.


We investigated mechanistic events associated with docetaxel-induced death in HRPC cell lines using various approaches that distinguish caspase-dependent from caspase-independent cell death. Docetaxel induced both mitotic catastrophe and caspase-dependent apoptosis at various concentrations. However, caspase activity was not essential for docetaxel-induced cytotoxicity since cell death associated with lysosomal membrane permeabilization still occurred in the presence of caspase inhibitors. Partial inhibition of docetaxel-induced cytotoxicity was observed after inhibition of cathepsin B, but not inhibition of cathepsins D and L, suggesting that docetaxel induces caspase-independent, lysosomal cell death. Simultaneous inhibition of caspases and cathepsin B dramatically reduced docetaxel-induced cell death. Ectopic expression of lens epithelium-derived growth factor p75 (LEDGF/p75), a stress survival autoantigen and transcription co-activator, attenuated docetaxel-induced lysosomal destabilization and cell death. Interestingly, LEDGF/p75 overexpression did not protect cells against DTX-induced mitotic catastrophe, and against apoptosis induced by tumor necrosis factor related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL), suggesting selectivity in its pro-survival activity.


These results underscore the ability of docetaxel to induce concomitantly caspase-dependent and independent death pathways in prostate cancer cells. The results also point to LEDGF/p75 as a potential contributor to cellular resistance to docetaxel-induced lysosomal destabilization and cell death, and an attractive candidate for molecular targeting in HRPC.