Use of autophagy inhibitors in combination with chemotherapy has become a novel chemotherapeutic strategy. In this study, we aimed to determine whether the effectiveness of doxorubicin (DOX) is augmented by clarithromycin (CAM) in MCF7 cells and the molecular mechanisms involved.
Combined cytotoxicity of CAM and DOX was assessed by MTT assay and was analyzed using the Chou-Talalay’s method. To clarify the underlying mechanisms, several factors, including apoptosis (Annexin V/propidium iodide staining), intracellular level of DOX (spectrofluorimetry) and P-glycoprotein activity (Rhodamin 123 efflux assay) were measured. In addition, autophagy was evaluated by intracellular labeling with anti-LC3II and LysoTrackerGreen (LTG) staining and analyzed by flowcytometry.
The anti-proliferation effect of DOX was synergistically enhanced by CAM in MCF7 cells and was associated with an increase in the apoptotic cell death. However, the intracellular level of DOX remained unchanged in the presence of CAM. Based on the findings, 100 μM of CAM did not exhibit any inhibitory effects on P-glycoprotein activity. Flow cytometric analysis indicated that DOX at IC concentration induced the autophagy flux, as confirmed by the increased level of LC3II and LTG signals. Moreover, combined treatment with DOX and CAM resulted in more pronounced LTG signals, but no change in LC3II. These results indicate that CAM blocks the autophagy flux induced by DOX.
These findings suggest that suppression of autophagy by CAM may promote chemotherapeutic outcome in breast cancer. However, further investigations are needed to evaluate the application of CAM in adjuvant breast cancer therapy.

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.