Smoking is a major cause of human lung cancer. Past studies suggest that apoptosis might influence the malignant phenotype, but little is known about the association between apoptosis and cigarette smoke (CS)-induced lung pathogenesis. Using an in situ cell death detection kit (TA300), the association of CS with apoptosis was determined in a concentration-dependent manner. Furthermore, the expression of related proteins were investigated in the terminal bronchiole areas of the lung tissue from rats exposed to CS. Results showed that the expression of phosphotyrosine proteins was increased significantly in lung tissue of rats exposed to CS from 5 to 15 cigarettes. Using Western blotting and immunoprecipitation assay, Fas, a death receptor, was proved just be one of these phosphotyrosine proteins. CS triggered activation of MAP kinase (p38/JNK or ERK2) pathway, which led to Jun or p53 phosphorylation and FasL induction links Fas phosphorylation. Further, smoke treatment produced an increase in the level of proapoptotic proteins (Bax, t-Bid, cytochrome c and caspase-3), but a decline in Bcl-2, procaspase-8 and procaspase-9 proteins. Thus, CS-induced apoptosis may result from two main mechanisms, one is the activation of p38/JNK-Jun-FasL signaling, and the other is stimulated by the stabilization of p53, increase in the ratio of Bax/Bcl-2, release of cytochrome c; thus, leading to activation of caspase cascade.
Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is one of the most promising candidates for cancer therapeutics. However, some tumor cells are resistant to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Our previous studies have shown that luteolin, a naturally occurring flavonoid, induces the up-regulation of death receptor 5 (DR5), which is a receptor for TRAIL. Here, we show for the first time that luteolin synergistically acts with exogenous soluble recombinant human TRAIL to induce apoptosis in HeLa cells, but not in normal human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. The combined use of luteolin and TRAIL induced Bid cleavage and the activation of caspase-8. Also, human recombinant DR5/Fc chimera protein, caspase inhibitors, and DR5 siRNA efficiently reduced apoptosis induced by co-treatment with luteolin and TRAIL. These results raise the possibility that this combined treatment with luteolin and TRAIL might be promising as a new therapy against cancer.