Polo-like kinase (PLK) is a cell-cycle regulator that is overexpressed in several cancer cell types. Polo-like kinase is considered a novel target for cancer therapies, and several PLK inhibitors (PLKis), including BI 2536, BI 6727, and GSK461364, have been developed. In this study, we established five BI 2536-resistant cell lines from human colorectal cancer HCT 116 cells, to explore the resistance mechanism and identify predictable biomarkers of PLKis. We showed that PLKi-induced caspase-8 activation was attenuated in the BI 2536-resistant cell lines. We also showed that the expression of P-glycoprotein (P-GP) and AKT3 was upregulated, whereas that of MYC was downregulated in some BI 2536-resistant cell lines. Expression of P-GP conferred resistance to PLKis, and PLKi-induced apoptosis was dependent on MYC and caspase-8 in HCT 116 cells. We also showed for the first time that AKT3 suppressed BI 6727-induced caspase-8 activation and conferred resistance to PLKis. Collectively, these results indicate that MYC, caspase-8, P-GP, and AKT3 play critical roles in PLKi-induced apoptosis. Therefore, they are candidate biomarkers of the pharmacological efficacy of PLKis.
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