Knockdown of NAPA using short-hairpin RNA sensitizes cancer cells to cisplatin: Implications to overcome chemoresistance

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Cisplatin is a widely used anti-cancer drug which targets DNA in replicating cells. In the present study, we found that NAPA—a protein found in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and implicated in protein trafficking—protects cells against cisplatin. Accordingly, knockdown of NAPA using lentivirus-encoded shRNA (shNAPA) induced ER stress similar to cisplatin treatment in HEK293 cells. A low dose of cisplatin also elicited a mild ER stress response associated with the accumulation of the protective proteins BiP and NAPA. Remarkably, knockdown of NAPA induced apoptosis and enhanced cisplatin-induced cytotoxicity/apoptosis, thereby sensitizing cancer cells to cisplatin. On the other hand, overexpression of NAPA increased resistance to cisplatin by reducing cisplatin-induced ER stress and apoptosis. The modulatory effects of shNAPA required the tumor suppressor p53 since the effects of NAPA knockdown were reduced by the p53 inhibitor PFT-α and in H1299 cells which are p53-null. A partial reversal of cisplatin resistance was also observed in cisplatin-resistant HeLa cells following knockdown of NAPA. Our results also indicated that calpain is required for ER-mediated apoptosis. Importantly, combined cisplatin/shNAPA treatment suppressed tumor growth in vivo in xenograph experiments performed in nude mice. Taken together, these observations suggest that NAPA represents a target of cisplatin, and that knockdown of NAPA may improve cisplatin-based cancer therapy.

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