Apoptosis, a programmed cell death, plays a key role in the regulation of tissue homeostasis. However, impairment of its regulation may promote formation and progression of malignancy. An important part of the apoptotic machinery are the inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP) family, regulating caspase activity, cell division or cell survival pathways through binding to their baculovirus AIP repeat (BIR) domains and/or by their ubiquitin-ligase RING zinc finger (RZF) activity. The following IAPs have been described so far: NAIP (neuronal apoptosis inhibitory protein; BIRC1), cIAP1 and cIAP2 (cellular inhibitor of apoptosis 1 and 2; BIRC2 and BIRC3, respectively), XIAP (X-chromosome binding IAP; BIRC4), survivin (BIRC5), BRUCE (Apollon; BIRC6), livin (BIRC7) and Ts-IAP (testis-specific IAP; BIRC8).
Several studies suggested a potential contribution of IAPs to oncogenesis and resistance to anti-tumor treatment. Increased IAP expression was found in variety of human cancers, including hematological malignancies, such as leukemias and B-cell lymphomas. A correlation between the progression of those diseases and high levels of survivin or XIAP has been reported. Overexpression of XIAP in acute myeloid leukemia or survivin in acute lymphoblastic leukemia and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma have been indicated as an unfavorable prognostic factors. Elevated cellular levels of cIAP1, cIAP2, XIAP and survivin correlated with a progressive course of chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Thus, targeting IAPs with small-molecule inhibitors by their antisense approaches or natural IAP antagonist mimetics, may be an attractive strategy of anti-cancer treatment. Such agents can either directly induce apoptosis of tumor cells or sensitize them to other cytotoxic agents, hence overcoming drug-resistance. This review demonstrates the current knowledge on IAP molecular biology, as well as the mechanisms of action and the development of IAP-targeting agents for treatment of hematological malignancies.
Keywords: Apoptosis, inhibitor of apoptosis proteins, IAPs, hematological malignancies, therapies, cell proliferation, caspases, DNA fragmentation, neoplasms, leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), proapoptotic signals, proteolysis, NFkB pathway, anti-tumor pro-apoptotic agents