Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Cancer Biology

Major Professor

Hong-Gang Wang, Ph.D.


Programmed cell death, Apoptosis, Autophagy, Endocytosis, BH3-only proteins


The resistance of cancer cells to traditional chemotherapeutic agents is a major obstacle in the successful treatment of cancer. Cancer cells manipulate a variety of signaling pathways to enhance resistance to anticancer agents; such mechanisms include disrupting the DNA damage response and hyperactivating survival signaling pathways. In an attempt to better understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie resistance to chemotherapeutic agents, we investigated multiple processes regulated by the Rad9-Rad1-Hus1 (9-1-1) complex and Bif-1. The 9-1-1 complex plays an integral role in the response to DNA damage and regulates many downstream signaling pathways. Overexpression of members of this complex has been described in several types of cancer and was shown to correlate with tumorigenicity. In this study, we demonstrate that disruption of the 9-1-1 complex, through loss of Hus1, sensitizes cells to DNA damaging agents by upregulating BH3-only protein expression.

Moreover, loss of Hus1 results in release of Rad9 into the cytosol, which enhances the interaction of Rad9 with Bcl-2 to potentiate the apoptotic response. We also provide evidence that disruption of the 9-1-1 complex sensitizes cells to caspase-independent cell death in response to DNA damage. Furthermore, we found that loss of Hus1 enhances DNA damage-induced autophagy. As autophagy has been implicated in caspase-independent cell death, these data suggest that the enhanced autophagy observed in Hus1-knockout cells may act as an alternate cell death mechanism. However, inhibition of autophagy, through knockdown of Atg7 or Bif-1, did not suppress, but rather promoted DNA damage-induced cell death in Hus1-deficient cells, suggesting that in apoptosis-competent cells autophagy may be induced as a cytoprotective mechanism. The aberrant activation of survival signals, such as enhanced EGFR signaling, is another mechanism that provides cancer cells with resistance to DNA damage.

We found that knockdown of Bif-1 accelerated the co-localization of EGF with late endosomes/lysosomes thereby promoting EGFR degradation. Our results suggest that Bif-1 may enhance survival not only by inducing autophagy, but also by regulating EGFR degradation. Taken together, the results from our studies indicate that the 9-1-1 complex and Bif-1 may be potential targets for cancer therapy as they both regulate sensitivity to DNA damage.