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CRISPR-mediated upregulation of DR5 and downregulation of cFLIP synergistically sensitize HeLa cells to TRAIL-mediated apoptosis

Poondla, Naresh, Chandrasekaran, Arun Pandian, Heese, Klaus, Kim, Kye-Seong, Ramakrishna, Suresh
Biochemical and biophysical research communications 2019 v.512 no.1 pp. 60-65
Western blotting, apoptosis, cell viability, gene editing, gene expression regulation, genes, human cell lines, humans, ligands, neoplasm cells, neoplasms, propidium, staining, synergism, therapeutics, tumor necrosis factors
Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) has received attention as an anticancer therapy because it mediates apoptosis of several cancer cell types but not normal human cell types. In this study, we implemented genome editing techniques to upregulate DR5 and downregulate cFLIP in HeLa cells to stimulate TRAIL-induced apoptosis. We designed and validated sgRNAs to enrich the endogenous level of DR5 by dead Cas9 (dCas9). Similarly, we designed two sgRNAs to disrupt the cFLIP gene by CRISPR/Cas9. We analyzed the effect of TRAIL on tumor cells by co-transfecting HeLa cells with the best combinations of sgRNAs regulating DR5 and cFLIP genes. TRAIL-induced apoptosis in HeLa cells was evaluated by the γH2AX foci formation assay to check for double-strand break and propidium iodide and Annexin V staining to quantify apoptotic cells. Viable cells were identified by CCK-8 assay, and cleaved-PARP level was evaluated by Western blot. This is the first study to demonstrate that genome editing techniques can be used as an effective combinatorial treatment strategy to induce apoptosis of cancer cells. In particular, enhancement of DR5 expression and inhibition of cFLIP expression by genome editing had a synergistic effect of inhibiting proliferation and inducing apoptosis in TRAIL-resistant HeLa cells. These results suggest that combinatorial treatment strategies mediated by the CRISPR/Cas9 system may be effective for design of other human TRAIL-resistant cell types.