Background Medulloblastoma (MB) is the most common pediatric primary malignant brain tumor. Approximately one-third of MB patients succumb to treatment failure and some survivors suffer detrimental side effects. Hence, the purpose of this study is to explore new therapeutic regimens to overcome chemotherapeutic agent resistance or reduce chemotherapyinduced toxicity. Methods We detected the expression of inhibitors of apoptosis proteins (IAPs) in MB and CD133+ MB cell lines and MB tissues using immunoblotting and immunohistochemical staining. The antitumor effects of inhibitors against IAPs on MB or CD133+ MB cells were evaluated by MTT assay, Annexin V/PI analysis, and caspase-3/7 activity. Autophagy was assessed by the conversion of light chain (LC) 3-I to LC3-II and Cyto-ID autophagy detection kit. Results MB cells showed higher expression of IAPs compared to normal astrocytes and normal brain tissues. Conventional chemotherapeutic agents combined with small-molecule IAP inhibitors (LCL161 or LBW242) showed a synergistic effect in MB cells. Combined treatments triggered apoptosis in MB cells through activation of caspase-3/7 and autophagic flux simultaneously. In addition, we found that CD133+ MB cells with features of cancer stem cells displayed higher levels of X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis (XIAP) and cellular inhibitor of apoptosis 1/2 (cIAP1/2), and were hypersensitive to treatment with IAP inhibitors. Conclusions These results shed light on the biological effects of combination therapy on MB cells and illustrate that IAP inhibitors are more effective for CD133+ stem-like MB cells.
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