Interference with the HSF1/HSP70/BAG3 pathway primes glioma cells to matrix detachment and BH3 mimetic-induced apoptosis

Patrick Antonietti, Benedikt Linder, Stephanie Hehlgans, Iris C. Mildenberger, Michael C. Burger, Simone Fulda, Joachim P. Steinbach, Florian Gessler, Franz Röodel, Michel Mittelbronn, Donat Köogel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Malignant gliomas exhibit a high intrinsic resistance against stimuli triggering apoptotic cell death. HSF1 acts as transcription factor upstream of HSP70 and the HSP70 co-chaperone BAG3 that is overexpressed in glioblastoma. To specifically target this resistance mechanism, we applied the selective HSF1 inhibitor KRIBB11 and the HSP70/BAG3 interaction inhibitor YM-1 in combination with the pan-Bcl-2 inhibitor AT-101. Here, we demonstrate that lentiviral BAG3 silencing significantly enhances AT-101-induced cell death and reactivates effector caspase-mediated apoptosis in U251 glioma cells with high BAG3 expression, whereas these sensitizing effects were less pronounced in U343 cells expressing lower BAG3 levels. KRIBB11 decreased protein levels of HSP70, BAG3, and the antiapoptotic Bcl-2 protein Mcl-1, and both KRIBB11 and YM-1 elicited significantly increased mitochondrial dysfunction, effector caspase activity, and apoptotic cell death after combined treatment with AT-101 and ABT-737. Depletion of BAG3 also led to a pronounced loss of cell-matrix adhesion, FAK phosphorylation, and in vivo tumor growth in an orthotopic mouse glioma model. Furthermore, it reduced the plating efficiency of U251 cells in three-dimensional clonogenic assays and limited clonogenic survival after short-term treatment with AT-101. Collectively, our data suggest that the HSF1/HSP70/ BAG3 pathway plays a pivotal role for overexpression of prosurvival Bcl-2 proteins and cell death resistance of glioma. They also support the hypothesis that interference with BAG3 function is an effective novel approach to prime glioma cells to anoikis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-168
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Cancer Therapeutics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


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