Oxidative protein folding in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) requires strict regulation of redox homeostasis. Disruption of the lumenal redox balance induces an integrated ER stress response that is associated with reduced protein translation, increased chaperone activity, and ultimately cell death. Imexon is a small molecule chemotherapeutic agent that has been shown to bind glutathione (GSH) and induce oxidative stress in tumor cells, however the mechanism of cytotoxicity is not well understood. This In this report, we investigate the effects of imexon on the integrated ER stress response in pancreatic carcinoma cells. Acute exposure to imexon induces an ER stress response characterized by accumulation of the oxidized form of the oxidoreductase Ero1α, phosphorylation of eIF2alpha and inhibition of protein synthesis. An RNA interference chemo-sensitization screen identified the eukaryotic translation initiation factor eIF2B5 as a target that enhanced imexon-induced growth inhibition of MiaPaCa-2 pancreatic cancer cells, but did not significantly augment the effects of imexon on protein synthesis. Concurrent reduction of intracellular thiols with N-acetyl cysteine reversed imexon activity, however co-treatment with superoxide scavengers had no effect, suggesting thiol binding may be a primary component of the oxidative effects of imexon. Moreover, the data suggest that disruption of the redox balance in the ER is a potential therapeutic target.
- Received July 27, 2011.
- Revision received January 18, 2012.
- Accepted January 19, 2012.
- Copyright © 2012, American Association for Cancer Research.