Targeting the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) - in particular, the proteasome complex - has emerged as an attractive novel cancer therapy. While several proteasome inhibitors have been successfully approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of hematological malignancies, the clinical efficacy of these inhibitors is unexpectedly lower in the treatment of solid tumors due to the functional and structural heterogeneity of proteasomes in solid tumors. There are ongoing trials to examine the effectiveness of compound and novel proteasome inhibitors that can target solid tumors either alone or in combination with conventional chemotherapeutic agents. The modest therapeutic efficacy of proteasome inhibitors such as bortezomib in solid malignancies demands further research to clarify the exact effects of these proteasome inhibitors on different proteasomes present in cancer cells. The structural, cellular localization and functional analysis of the proteasome complexes in solid tumors originated from different tissues provides new insights into the diversity of proteasomes' responses to inhibitors. In this study, we used an optimized iodixanol gradient ultracentrifugation to purify a native form of proteasome complexes with their intact associated protein partners enriched within distinct cellular compartments. It is therefore possible to isolate proteasome subcomplexes with far greater resolution than sucrose or glycerol fractionations. We have identified differences in the catalytic activities, subcellular distribution, and inhibitor sensitivity of cytoplasmic proteasomes isolated from human colon, breast, and pancreatic cancer cell lines. Our developed techniques and generated results will serve as a valuable guideline for investigators developing a new generation of proteasome inhibitors as an effective targeted therapy for solid tumors.
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