Biomolecules & Therapeutics
Differential Sensitivity of Wild-Type and BRAF-Mutated Cells to Combined BRAF and Autophagy Inhibition
Hojin Yeom1, Sung-Hee Hwang1, Byeal-I Han2 and Michael Lee1,2,*
1Division of Life Sciences, College of Life Sciences and Bioengineering, Incheon National University, Incheon 22012,
2Institute for New Drug Development, Incheon National University, Incheon 22012, Republic of Korea
Tel: +82-32-835-8247, Fax: +82-32-835-0754
Received: November 9, 2020; Revised: January 15, 2021; Accepted: January 19, 2021; Published online: February 8, 2021.
© The Korean Society of Applied Pharmacology. All rights reserved.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
BRAF inhibitors are insufficient monotherapies for BRAF-mutated cancer; therefore, we investigated which inhibitory pathway would yield the most effective therapeutic approach when targeted in combination with BRAF inhibition. The oncogenic BRAF inhibitor, PLX4720, increased basal autophagic flux in BRAF-mutated cells compared to wild-type (WT) BRAF cells. Interestingly, early autophagy inhibition improved the effectiveness of PLX4720 regardless of BRAF mutation, whereas late autophagy inhibition did not. Although ATG5 knockout led to PLX4720 resistance in both WT and BRAF-mutated cells, the MEK inhibitor trametinib exhibited a synergistic effect on PLX4720 sensitivity in WT BRAF cells but not in BRAF-mutated cells. Conversely, the prolonged inhibition of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress reduced basal autophagy in BRAF-mutated cells, thereby increasing PLX4720 sensitivity. Taken together, our results suggest that the combined inhibition of ER stress and BRAF may simultaneously suppress both pro-survival ER stress and autophagy, and may therefore be suitable for treatment of BRAF-mutated tumors whose autophagy is increased by chronic ER stress. Similarly, for WT BRAF tumors, therapies targeting MEK signaling may be a more effective treatment strategy. Together, this study presents a rational combination treatment strategy to improve the efficacy of BRAF inhibitors depending on BRAF mutation status.
Keywords: BRAF, Autophagy, Mutation, Melanoma, TFEB, Cancer

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