Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation





First Advisor

Dr. Natasha Kyprianou


Anti-tumor therapeutic strategies based on combinations of chemotherapeutic agents with a death inducing ligand such as TNF-α Related Apoptosis Inducing Ligand (TRAIL), are directed towards selective and effective cancer cell apoptosis and enhanced therapeutic response. We previously demonstrated that proteasome inhibition sensitizes TRAIL resistant prostate cancer cells to TRAIL-mediated apoptosis via stabilization of the active p18 subunit of initiator caspase-8. The present study investigated the functional link between caspase-8 and the proteasome, by analyzing the impact of caspase-8 ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation on the outcomes of the extrinsic apoptosis pathway in cancer cells. Caspase-8 ubiquitination status was assessed by polyubiquitin immunoprecipitation (IP) and fluorescent microscopy. Apoptosis induction in response to death receptor stimuli or proteasome inhibitor was evaluated using the Annexin V/Propidium iodide staining (PI). To determine the consequences of proteasome inhibition on caspase-8 stability, trafficking, and activity following death receptor activation, we used the TRAIL-resistant human prostate cancer LNCaP cells, and the caspase-8 deficient Neuroblastoma 7 (NB7) cells, as cellular models for reconstituting the non-cleavable mutant forms of caspase-8. Our findings demonstrate that the non-cleavable forms of caspase-8 are capable of inducing apoptosis comparably to wild-type caspase-8 upon treatment with proteasome inhibitor and GST-TRAIL. Furthermore, caspase-8 processing into its active subunits preceded caspase-8 polyubiquitination, implicating caspase-8 processing as a potential regulatory mechanism, rather than a requirement for caspase-8 activation in apoptosis induction. The mechanistic control of caspase-8 by ubiquitination in cancer cells may have significant significance in bypassing mechanisms of therapeutic resistance in human tumors and optimization of anti-cancer treatment strategies in human tumors and optimization of anti-cancer treatment strategies.