Human osteoblasts are resistant to Apo2L/TRAIL-mediated apoptosis

G. J. Atkins, S. Bouralexis, A. Evdokiou, S. Hay, A. Labrinidis, A. C W Zannettino, D. R. Haynes, D. M. Findlay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Apo2 ligand (Apo2L/TRAIL) is a member of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) cytokine family. Apo2L/TRAIL can selectively induce programmed cell death in transformed cells, although its wide tissue distribution suggests potential physiological roles. We have investigated the expression, in human osteoblast-like cells (NHBC), of Apo2L/TRAIL and the known Apo2L/TRAIL death receptors, DR4 and DR5, and the Apo2L/TRAIL decoy receptors, DcR-1, DcR-2, and osteoprotegerin (OPG). NHBC expressed abundant mRNA corresponding to each of these molecular species. Immunofluorescence staining demonstrated that Apo2L/TRAIL protein was abundant within the cytoplasm of NHBC and OPG was strongly expressed at the cell surface. DR5 and DcR-2 were present in the cell membrane and cytoplasm and DcR-1 was confined to the nucleus. DR4 staining was weak. Neither Apo2L/TRAIL alone, nor in combination with chemotherapeutic agents of clinical relevance to treatment of osteogenic sarcoma, induced cell death in NHBC, as assessed morphologically and by activation of caspase-3. In contrast, the human osteogenic sarcoma cell lines, BTK-143 and G-292, were sensitive to exogenous Apo2L/TRAIL alone, and to the combined effect of Apo2L/TRAIL/cisplatin and Apo2L/TRAIL/doxorubicin treatments, respectively. In NHBC, we observed strong associations between the levels of mRNA corresponding to the pro-apoptotic molecules, Apo2L/TRAIL, DR4, and DR5, and those corresponding to pro-survival molecules, DcR-1, DcR-2, OPG, and FLIP, suggesting that the balance between pro-survival and pro-apoptotic molecules is a mechanism by which NHBC can resist Apo2L/TRAIL-mediated apoptosis. In contrast, osteogenic sarcoma cells had low or absent levels of DcR-1 and DcR-2. These results provide a foundation to explore the role of Apo2L/TRAIL in osteoblast physiology. In addition, they predict that therapeutic use of recombinant Apo2L/TRAIL, in combination with chemotherapeutic agents to treat skeletal malignancies, would have limited toxic effects on normal osteoblastic cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)448-456
Number of pages9
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Oct 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Apo2L/TRAIL
  • Apoptosis
  • Caspase
  • Chemotherapy
  • Human osteoblasts
  • Receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Histology

Cite this