Rapamycin and UCN-01 synergistically induce apoptosis in human leukemia cells through a process that is regulated by the Raf-1/MEK/ERK, Akt, and JNK signal transduction pathways

Hahn M, Li W, Yu C, Rahmani M, Dent P and Grant S
Source: Mol Cancer Ther
Publication Date: (2005)
Issue: 4(3): 457-470
Research Area:
Cancer Research/Cell Biology
Cells used in publication:
Species: human
Tissue Origin: blood
Nucleofector® I/II/2b
Interactions between the protein kinase C and Chk1 inhibitor UCN-01 and rapamycin in human leukemia cells have been investigated in relation to apoptosis induction. Treatment of U937 monocytic leukemia cells with rapamycin (10 nmol/L) in conjunction with a minimally toxic concentration of UCN-01 (100 nmol/L) for 36 hours resulted in marked potentiation of mitochondrial injury (i.e., loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and cytosolic release of cytochrome c, AIF, and Smac/DIABLO), caspase activation, and apoptosis. The release of cytochrome c, AIF, and Smac/DIABLO were inhibited by BOC-D-fmk, indicating that their release was caspase dependent. These events were associated with marked down-regulation of Raf-1, MEK, and ERK phosphorylation, diminished Akt activation, and enhanced phosphorylation of c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK). Coadministration of UCN-01 and rapamycin reduced the expression levels of the antiapoptotic members of the Bcl-2 family Mcl-1 and Bcl-xL and diminished the expression of cyclin D1 and p34(cdc2). Furthermore, enforced expression of a constitutively active MEK1 or, to a lesser extent, myristoylated Akt construct partially but significantly attenuated UCN-01/rapamycin-mediated lethality in both U937 and Jurkat cell systems. Finally, inhibition of the stress-related JNK by SP600125 or by the expression of a dominant-negative mutant of c-Jun significantly attenuated apoptosis induced by rapamycin/UCN-01. Together, these findings indicate that the mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitor potentiates UCN-01 cytotoxicity in a variety of human leukemia cell types and suggest that inhibition of both Raf-1/MEK/ERK and Akt cytoprotective signaling pathways as well as JNK activation contribute to this phenomenon.