Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common and malignant brain tumor. Temozolomide (TMZ) is the first-line chemotherapeutic drug for treating GBM. However, drug resistance is still a challenging issue in GBM therapy. Our preliminary results showed upregulation of androgen receptor (AR) gene expression in human GBM tissues. This study was designed to evaluate the effects of enzalutamide, a specific inhibitor of the AR, on killing drug-resistant and -sensitive glioblastoma cells and the possible mechanisms. Data mining from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) database revealed upregulation of AR messenger (m)RNA and protein expressions in human GBM tissues, especially in male patients, compared to normal human brains. In addition, expressions of AR mRNA and protein in human TMZ-sensitive U87 MG and -resistant U87 MG-R glioblastoma cells were elevated compared to normal human astrocytes. Exposure of human U87 MG and U87 MG-R cells to enzalutamide concentration- and time-dependently decreased cell viability. As to the mechanism, enzalutamide killed these two types of glioblastoma cells via an apoptotic mechanism. Specifically, exposure to enzalutamide augmented enzyme activities of caspase-9 rather than those of caspase-8. Moreover, enzalutamide successively triggered an elevation in levels of the proapoptotic Bax protein, a reduction in the mitochondrial membrane potential, release of cytochrome c, cascade activation of caspases-3 and -6, DNA fragmentation, and cell apoptosis in human TMZ-sensitive and -resistant glioblastoma cells. Pretreatment with Z-VEID-FMK, an inhibitor of caspase-6, caused significant attenuations in enzalutamide-induced morphological shrinkage, DNA damage, and apoptotic death. Taken together, this study showed that enzalutamide could significantly induce apoptotic insults to human drug-resistant and -sensitive glioblastoma cells via an intrinsic Bax-mitochondrion-cytochrome c-caspase cascade activation pathway. Enzalutamide has the potential to be a drug candidate for treating GBM by targeting the AR signaling axis.
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