Background/Aims: Over-expression of IL-6 has been implicated in cholangiocarcinoma growth but the cellular mechanisms involved are unknown. Our aims were to assess the mechanisms by which over-expression of IL-6 promotes transformed cell growth in malignant cholangiocytes. Methods: Stably transfected cell lines over-expressing IL-6 were derived from malignant human cholangiocytes. Transformed cell growth was assessed by anchorage independent growth in vitro and by xenograft growth in nude mice. Expression of the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1 was quantitated by immunoblot analysis and by real-time PCR. Gene silencing was performed using siRNA. Dominant negative upstream kinase activators and isoform-specific constructs were used to evaluate the involvement of p38 MAP kinase signaling pathways. Results: Over-expression of IL-6 increased xenograft growth, anchorage independent growth and cell survival but did not significantly alter cell proliferation. The basal expression of Mcl-1 was increased in IL-6 over-expressing cells. Selective knockdown of Mcl-1 by siRNA increased gemcitabine-induced cytotoxicity. Moreover, IL-6 increased Mcl-1 mRNA and protein expression via a p38 MAPK dependent mechanism. Conclusions: These data demonstrate a major role of survival signaling pathways in mediating the effects of IL-6 over-expression in cholangiocarcinoma growth. Mcl-1 is identified as a mediator of IL-6-induced tumor cell survival and shown to be transcriptionally regulated by IL-6 via a p38 MAPK dependent pathway. We conclude that modulation of IL-6 mediated survival signaling pathways involving the p38 MAPK or downstream targets such as Mcl-1 may prove useful therapeutic strategies for human cholangiocarcinoma.
- Biliary tract tumors
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