c-FLIP, a master anti-apoptotic regulator

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169 Scopus citations


Cellular FLICE (FADD-like IL-1β-converting enzyme)-inhibitory protein (c-FLIP) is a master anti-apoptotic regulator and resistance factor that suppresses tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), Fas-L, and TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)-induced apoptosis, as well as apoptosis triggered by chemotherapy agents in malignant cells. c-FLIP is expressed as long (c-FLIPL), short (c-FLIPS), and c-FLIPR splice variants in human cells. c-FLIP binds to FADD and/or caspase-8 or -10 and TRAIL receptor 5 (DR5) in a ligand-dependent and -independent fashion and forms an apoptosis inhibitory complex (AIC). This interaction in turn prevents death-inducing signaling complex (DISC) formation and subsequent activation of the caspase cascade. c-FLIPL and c-FLIPS are also known to have multifunctional roles in various signaling pathways, as well as activating and/or upregulating several cytoprotective and pro-survival signaling proteins including Akt, ERK, and NF-kB. Upregulation of c-FLIP has been found in various tumor types, and its silencing has been shown to restore apoptosis triggered by cytokines and various chemotherapeutic agents. Hence, c-FLIP is an important target for cancer therapy. For example, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) that specifically knockdown the expression of c-FLIPL in diverse human cancer cell lines augmented TRAIL-induced DISC recruitment and increased the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents, thereby enhancing effector caspase stimulation and apoptosis. Moreover, small molecules causing degradation of c-FLIP as well as decreasing mRNA and protein levels of c-FLIPL and c-FLIPS splice variants have been found, and much effort is focused on developing other c-FLIP-targeted cancer therapies. This review focuses on (1) the anti-apoptotic role of c-FLIP splice variants in preventing apoptosis and inducing cytokine and chemotherapy drug resistance, (2) the molecular mechanisms and factors that regulate c-FLIP expression, and (3) modulation of c-FLIP expression and function to eliminate cancer cells or increase the efficacy of anticancer agents. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled "Apoptosis: Four Decades Later".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-184
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2012


  • Apoptosis
  • c-FLIP
  • Cancer
  • Chemotherapy
  • Death receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology

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