Cisplatin is a highly effective chemotherapeutic drug used in the treatment of several tumors. It is a DNA-damaging agent that induces apoptosis of rapidly proliferating cells, an important factor underlying its therapeutic efficacy. Unfortunately, cellular resistance occurs often. A large fraction of tumor cells harbor mutations in p53, contributing to defects in apoptotic pathways and drug resistance. However, cisplatin-induced apoptosis can also occur in p53 deficient cells; thus, elucidation of the molecular mechanism involved will potentially yield new strategies to eliminate tumors that have defects in the p53 pathway. Most of the studies in this field have been conducted in cultured mammalian cells, not amenable to systematic genetic manipulation. Therefore, we aimed to establish a simplified model devoid of a p53 ortholog to study cisplatin-induced programmed cell death (PCD), using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Our results indicate cisplatin induces an active form of cell death in yeast, as this process was partially dependent on de novo protein synthesis and did not lead to loss of membrane integrity. Cisplatin also increased DNA condensation and fragmentation/degradation, but no significant mitochondrial dysfunction other than partial fragmentation. Co-incubation with the proteasome inhibitor MG132 increased resistance to cisplatin and, accordingly, yeast strains deficient in proteasome activity were more resistant to cisplatin than wild-type strains. Proteasome inhibitors can sensitize tumor cells to cisplatin, but protect others from cisplatin-induced cell death. Our results indicate inhibition of the proteasome protects budding yeast from cisplatin-induced cell death and validate yeast as a model to study the role of the proteasome in cisplatin-induced PCD. Elucidation of this mechanism will aid in the development of new strategies to increase the efficacy of chemotherapy.
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