Background and purpose: Metastatic melanoma remains one of the most invasive and highly drug resistant cancers. The over expression of anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1 has been associated with inferior survival, poor prognosis and chemoresistance of malignant melanoma. A BH3 mimetic, ABT-737, has demonstrated efficacy in several forms of cancers. However, the efficacy of ABT-737 depends on Mcl-1. Because the over expression of Mcl-1 is frequently observed in melanoma, specifically targeting of Mcl-1 may overcome the resistance of ABT-737. In this study, we investigated the effects of Maritoclax, a novel Mcl-1-selective inhibitor, alone and in combination with ABT-737, on the survival of human melanoma cells. Experimental approach: For cell viability assessment we performed MTT assay. Apoptosis was determined using western blot and flow cytometric analysis. Key results: The treatment of Maritoclax reduced the cell viability of melanoma cells with an IC50 of between 2.2-5.0 μM. Further, treatment of melanoma cells with Maritoclax showed significant decrease in Mcl-1 expression. We found that Maritoclax was able to induce apoptosis in melanoma cells in a caspase-dependent manner. Moreover, Maritoclax induced Mcl-1 degradation via the proteasome system, which was associated with its pro-apoptotic activity. We also found that Maritoclax treatment increased mitochondrial translocation of Bim and Bmf. Importantly, Maritoclax markedly enhanced the efficacy of ABT-737 against melanoma cells in both two- and three-dimensional spheroids. Conclusions and implications: Taken together, these results suggest that targeting of Mcl-1 by Maritoclax may represent a new therapeutic strategy for melanoma treatment that warrants further investigation as a single therapy or in combination with other agents such as Bcl-2 inhibitors.
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