Evading apoptosis is a hallmark of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells and an obstacle to current chemotherapeutic approaches. Inhibiting histone deacetylase (HDAC) has emerged as a promising strategy to induce cell death in malignant cells. We have previously reported that the HDAC inhibitor MGCD0103 induces CLL cell death by activating the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis. Here, we show that MGCD0103 decreases the autophagic flux in primary CLL cells. Activation of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway, together with the activation of caspases, and to a minor extent CAPN1, resulting in cleavage of autophagy components, were involved in MGCD0103-mediated inhibition of autophagy. In addition, MGCD0103 directly modulated the expression of critical autophagy genes at the transcriptional level that may contribute to autophagy impairment. Besides, we demonstrate that autophagy is a pro-survival mechanism in CLL whose disruption potentiates cell death induced by anticancer molecules including HDAC and cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors. In particular, our data highlight the therapeutic potential of MGCD0103 as not only an inducer of apoptosis but also an autophagy suppressor in both combination regimens with molecules like flavopiridol, known to induce protective autophagy in CLL cells, or as an alternative to circumvent undesired immunomodulatory effects seen in the clinic with conventional autophagy inhibitors.
- B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- histone deacetylase inhibitor