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Up-regulation of pro-apoptotic protein Bim and down-regulation of anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1 cooperatively mediate enhanced tumor cell death induced by the combination of ERK kinase (MEK) inhibitor and microtubule inhibitor



Up-regulation of pro-apoptotic protein Bim and down-regulation of anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1 cooperatively mediate enhanced tumor cell death induced by the combination of ERK kinase (MEK) inhibitor and microtubule inhibitor



Journal of Biological Chemistry 287(13): 10289-10300



Blockade of the ERK signaling pathway by ERK kinase (MEK) inhibitors selectively enhances the induction of apoptosis by microtubule inhibitors in tumor cells in which this pathway is constitutively activated. We examined the mechanism by which such drug combinations induce enhanced cell death by applying time-lapse microscopy to track the fate of individual cells. MEK inhibitors did not affect the first mitosis after drug exposure, but most cells remained arrested in interphase without entering a second mitosis. Low concentrations of microtubule inhibitors induced prolonged mitotic arrest followed by exit of cells from mitosis without division, with most cells remaining viable. However, the combination of a MEK inhibitor and a microtubule inhibitor induced massive cell death during prolonged mitosis. Impairment of spindle assembly checkpoint function by RNAi-mediated depletion of Mad2 or BubR1 markedly suppressed such prolonged mitotic arrest and cell death. The cell death was accompanied by up-regulation of the pro-apoptotic protein Bim (to which MEK inhibitors contributed) and by down-regulation of the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1 (to which microtubule and MEK inhibitors contributed synergistically). Whereas RNAi-mediated knockdown of Bim suppressed cell death, stabilization of Mcl-1 by RNAi-mediated depletion of Mule slowed its onset. Depletion of Mcl-1 sensitized tumor cells to MEK inhibitor-induced cell death, an effect that was antagonized by knockdown of Bim. The combination of MEK and microtubule inhibitors thus targets Bim and Mcl-1 in a cooperative manner to induce massive cell death in tumor cells with aberrant ERK pathway activation.

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Accession: 056773990

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PMID: 22270368

DOI: 10.1074/jbc.m111.319426


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