Fas expression has been shown to negatively regulate the progression of cholangiocarcinoma cells in xenografts. However, many human cholangiocarcinomas express Fas, suggesting these cancers have developed mechanisms to inhibit Fas-mediated apoptosis. Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which generates prostanoids, is expressed by many cholangiocarcinomas. Therefore, our aim was to determine whether COX-2 expression inhibits death receptor-mediated apoptosis in KMBC cells, a cholangiocarcinoma cell line. These cells express messenger RNA for the death receptors Fas, tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 (TNF-R1), death receptor 4 (DR4), and DR5. Agonists for these death receptors, CH-11, TNF-α, and TRAIL all induced apoptosis. However, COX-2, whether induced by proinflammatory cytokines or transient transfection, only significantly inhibited Fas-mediated apoptosis. The COX-2 inhibitor NS-398 restored Fas-mediated apoptosis in COX-2 transfected cells. Prostaglandin E2 reduced apoptosis and mitochondrial depolarization after treatment with the Fas agonist CH-11. Of a variety of antiapoptotic proteins examined, COX-2/prostaglandin E2 only increased expression of Mcl-1, an antiapoptotic member of the Bcl-2 family. In conclusion, these data suggest that prostanoid generation by COX-2 specifically inhibits Fas-mediated apoptosis, likely by up-regulating Mcl-1 expression. Pharmacologic inhibition of COX-2 may be useful in augmenting Fas-mediated apoptosis of cholangiocarcinoma cells.
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