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1.  Microtubule Binding and Disruption and Induction of Premature Senescence by Disorazole C1 
Disorazoles comprise a family of 29 macrocyclic polyketides isolated from the fermentation broth of the myxobacterium Sorangium cellulosum. The major fermentation product, disorazole A1, was previously found to irreversibly bind to tubulin and to have potent cytotoxic activity against tumor cells, possibly due to its highly electrophilic epoxide moiety. To test this hypothesis, we synthesized the epoxide-free disorazole C1 and found it retained potent antiproliferative activity against tumor cells, causing prominent G2/M phase arrest and inhibition of in vitro tubulin polymerization. Furthermore, disorazole C1 produced disorganized microtubules at interphase, misaligned chromosomes during mitosis, apoptosis, and premature senescence in the surviving cell populations. Using a tubulin polymerization assay, we found disorazole C1 inhibited purified bovine tubulin polymerization with an IC50 of 11.8 ± 0.4 μM and inhibited [3H]vinblastine binding uncompetitively with a Ki of 4.5 ± 0.6 μM. We also found uncompetitive inhibition of [3H]dolastatin 10 binding by disorazole C1 with a Ki of 10.6 ± 1.5 μM, indicating that disorazole C1 bound tubulin uniquely among known antimitotic agents. Disorazole C1 could be a valuable chemical probe for studying the process of mitotic spindle disruption and its relationship to premature senescence.
PMCID: PMC2649750  PMID: 19066338
2.  Isolation, biology and chemistry of the disorazoles: new anti-cancer macrodiolides 
Natural product reports  2009;26(5):585-601.
The disorazoles comprise a family of 29 closely related macrocyclic polyketides isolated in 1994 from the fermentation broth of the gliding myxobacterium Sorangium cellulosum. Disorazoles A1, E and C1 have shown exceptional biological activities toward inhibiting the proliferation of human cancer cell lines in picomolar and nanomolar concentrations through the disruption of microtubule polymerization. This review gives a brief introduction describing the biosynthesis and the significance of the disorazoles as a new class of microtubulin disruptors. Another portion of the review focuses on the biology of the disorazoles, specifically disorazole A1 and C1, and their antiproliferative efficacy against animal and human tumor cell lines, as well as the available SAR data. The majority of the discussion addresses synthetic efforts, including partial syntheses of various disorazoles and a summary of the total synthesis of disorazole C1.
PMCID: PMC2711774  PMID: 19387496
3.  Targeting mitotic exit with hyperthermia or APC/C inhibition to increase paclitaxel efficacy 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(16):2598-2607.
Microtubule-poisoning drugs, such as Paclitaxel (or Taxol, PTX), are powerful and commonly used anti-neoplastic agents for the treatment of several malignancies. PTX triggers cell death, mainly through a mitotic arrest following the activation of the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC). Cells treated with PTX slowly slip from this mitotic block and die by mitotic catastrophe. However, cancer cells can acquire or are intrinsically resistant to this drug, posing one of the main obstacles for PTX clinical effectiveness. In order to override PTX resistance and increase its efficacy, we investigated both the enhancement of mitotic slippage and the block of mitotic exit.
To test these opposing strategies, we used physiological hyperthermia (HT) to force exit from PTX-induced mitotic block and the anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C) inhibitor, proTAME, to block mitotic exit. We observed that application of HT on PTX-treated cells forced mitotic slippage, as shown by the rapid decline of cyclin B levels and by microscopy analysis. Similarly, HT induced mitotic exit in cells blocked in mitosis by other antimitotic drugs, such as Nocodazole and the Aurora A inhibitor MLN8054, indicating a common effect of HT on mitotic cells. On the other hand, proTAME prevented mitotic exit of PTX and MLN8054 arrested cells, prolonged mitosis, and induced apoptosis. In addition, we showed that proTAME prevented HT-mediated mitotic exit, indicating that stress-induced APC/C activation is necessary for HT-induced mitotic slippage.
Finally, HT significantly increased PTX cytotoxicity, regardless of cancer cells’ sensitivity to PTX, and this activity was superior to the combination of PTX with pro-TAME. Our data suggested that forced mitotic exit of cells arrested in mitosis by anti-mitotic drugs, such as PTX, can be a more successful anticancer strategy than blocking mitotic exit by inactivation of the APC/C.
PMCID: PMC3865049  PMID: 23907120
mitotic block; mitotic catastrophe; hyperthermia; APC/C; proTAME; taxanes; aurora A inhibitors; antimitotic drug resistance
4.  Total synthesis of (-)-CP2-disorazole C1 
Organic letters  2011;13(15):4088-4091.
The total synthesis of a bis-cyclopropane analog of the antimitotic natural product (-)-disorazole C1 was accomplished in 23 steps and 1.1% overall yield. A vinyl cyclopropane cross-metathesis reaction generated a key (E)-alkene segment of the target molecule. IC50 determinations of (-)-CP2-disorazole C1 in human colon cancer cell lines indicated low nanomolar cytotoxic properties. Accordingly, this synthetic bioisostere represents the first biologically active disorazole analog not containing a conjugated diene or polyene substructure element.
PMCID: PMC3160746  PMID: 21739942
5.  Prolonged mitotic arrest triggers partial activation of apoptosis, resulting in DNA damage and p53 induction 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(4):567-576.
ETOC: Despite the use of antimitotic drugs, our understanding of the stress response, especially during mitotic arrest, is lacking. We report a molecular mechanism resulting in DNA damage during mitotic arrest that occurs via the apoptotic machinery but in the absence of cell death; this mechanism triggers p53 induction after cells slip from mitotic arrest.
Mitotic arrest induced by antimitotic drugs can cause apoptosis or p53-dependent cell cycle arrest. It can also cause DNA damage, but the relationship between these events has been unclear. Live, single-cell imaging in human cancer cells responding to an antimitotic kinesin-5 inhibitor and additional antimitotic drugs revealed strong induction of p53 after cells slipped from prolonged mitotic arrest into G1. We investigated the cause of this induction. We detected DNA damage late in mitotic arrest and also after slippage. This damage was inhibited by treatment with caspase inhibitors and by stable expression of mutant, noncleavable inhibitor of caspase-activated DNase, which prevents activation of the apoptosis-associated nuclease caspase-activated DNase (CAD). These treatments also inhibited induction of p53 after slippage from prolonged arrest. DNA damage was not due to full apoptosis, since most cytochrome C was still sequestered in mitochondria when damage occurred. We conclude that prolonged mitotic arrest partially activates the apoptotic pathway. This partly activates CAD, causing limited DNA damage and p53 induction after slippage. Increased DNA damage via caspases and CAD may be an important aspect of antimitotic drug action. More speculatively, partial activation of CAD may explain the DNA-damaging effects of diverse cellular stresses that do not immediately trigger apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC3279386  PMID: 22171325
6.  Post-slippage multinucleation renders cytotoxic variation in anti-mitotic drugs that target the microtubules or mitotic spindle 
Cell Cycle  2014;13(11):1756-1764.
One common cancer chemotherapeutic strategy is to perturb cell division with anti-mitotic drugs. Paclitaxel, the classic microtubule-targeting anti-mitotic drug, so far still outperforms the newer, more spindle-specific anti-mitotics in the clinic, but the underlying cellular mechanism is poorly understood. In this study we identified post-slippage multinucleation, which triggered extensive DNA damage and apoptosis after drug-induced mitotic slippage, contributes to the extra cytotoxicity of paclitaxel in comparison to the spindle-targeting drug, Kinesin-5 inhibitor. Based on quantitative single-cell microscopy assays, we showed that attenuation of the degree of post-slippage multinucleation significantly reduced DNA damage and apoptosis in response to paclitaxel, and that post-slippage apoptosis was likely mediated by the p53-dependent DNA damage response pathway. Paclitaxel appeared to act as a double-edge sword, capable of killing proliferating cancer cells both during mitotic arrest and after mitotic slippage by inducing DNA damage. Our results thus suggest that to predict drug response to paclitaxel and anti-mitotics in general, 2 distinct sets of bio-markers, which regulate mitotic and post-slippage cytotoxicity, respectively, may need to be considered. Our findings provide important new insight not only for elucidating the cytotoxic mechanisms of paclitaxel, but also for understanding the variable efficacy of different anti-mitotic chemotherapeutics.
PMCID: PMC4111722  PMID: 24694730
anti-mitotic drug; mitotic slippage; apoptosis; multinucleation; DNA damage; mitotic arrest; paclitaxel; Kinesin-5 inhibitor
7.  Natural Product Celastrol Destabilizes Tubulin Heterodimer and Facilitates Mitotic Cell Death Triggered by Microtubule-Targeting Anti-Cancer Drugs 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10318.
Microtubule drugs are effective anti-cancer agents, primarily due to their ability to induce mitotic arrest and subsequent cell death. However, some cancer cells are intrinsically resistant or acquire a resistance. Lack of apoptosis following mitotic arrest is thought to contribute to drug resistance that limits the efficacy of the microtubule-targeting anti-cancer drugs. Genetic or pharmacological agents that selectively facilitate the apoptosis of mitotic arrested cells present opportunities to strengthen the therapeutic efficacy.
Methodology and Principal Findings
We report a natural product Celastrol targets tubulin and facilitates mitotic cell death caused by microtubule drugs. First, in a small molecule screening effort, we identify Celastrol as an inhibitor of neutrophil chemotaxis. Subsequent time-lapse imaging analyses reveal that inhibition of microtubule-mediated cellular processes, including cell migration and mitotic chromosome alignment, is the earliest events affected by Celastrol. Disorganization, not depolymerization, of mitotic spindles appears responsible for mitotic defects. Celastrol directly affects the biochemical properties of tubulin heterodimer in vitro and reduces its protein level in vivo. At the cellular level, Celastrol induces a synergistic apoptosis when combined with conventional microtubule-targeting drugs and manifests an efficacy toward Taxol-resistant cancer cells. Finally, by time-lapse imaging and tracking of microtubule drug-treated cells, we show that Celastrol preferentially induces apoptosis of mitotic arrested cells in a caspase-dependent manner. This selective effect is not due to inhibition of general cell survival pathways or mitotic kinases that have been shown to enhance microtubule drug-induced cell death.
Conclusions and Significance
We provide evidence for new cellular pathways that, when perturbed, selectively induce the apoptosis of mitotic arrested cancer cells, identifying a potential new strategy to enhance the therapeutic efficacy of conventional microtubule-targeting anti-cancer drugs.
PMCID: PMC2859055  PMID: 20428237
8.  Microtubule dependency of p34cdc2 inactivation and mitotic exit in mammalian cells 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1994;127(3):789-802.
The protein kinase inhibitor 2-aminopurine induces checkpoint override and mitotic exit in BHK cells which have been arrested in mitosis by inhibitors of microtubule function (Andreassen, P. R., and R. L. Margolis. 1991. J. Cell Sci. 100:299-310). Mitotic exit is monitored by loss of MPM-2 antigen, by the reformation of nuclei, and by the extinction of p34cdc2-dependent H1 kinase activity. 2-AP-induced inactivation of p34cdc2 and mitotic exit depend on the assembly state of microtubules. During mitotic arrest generated by the microtubule assembly inhibitor nocodazole, the rate of mitotic exit induced by 2-AP decreases proportionally with increasing nocodazole concentrations. At nocodazole concentrations of 0.12 microgram/ml or greater, 2-AP induces no apparent exit through 75 min of treatment. In contrast, 2-AP brings about a rapid exit (t1/2 = 20 min) from mitotic arrest by taxol, a drug which causes inappropriate overassembly of microtubules. In control mitotic cells, p34cdc2 localizes to kinetochores, centrosomes, and spindle microtubules. We find that efficient exit from mitosis occurs under conditions where p34cdc2 remains associated with centrosomal microtubules, suggesting it must be present on these microtubules in order to be inactivated. Mitotic slippage, the natural reentry of cells into G1 during prolonged mitotic block, is also microtubule dependent. At high nocodazole concentrations slippage is prevented and mitotic arrest approaches 100%. We conclude that essential components of the machinery for exit from mitosis are present on the mitotic spindle, and that normal mitotic exit thereby may be regulated by the microtubule assembly state.
PMCID: PMC2120226  PMID: 7962060
9.  Sustained Spindle-Assembly Checkpoint Response Requires De Novo Transcription and Translation of Cyclin B1 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e13037.
Microtubule-targeting drugs induce mitotic delay at pro-metaphase by preventing the spindle assembly checkpoint to be satisfied. However, especially after prolonged treatments, cells can escape this arrest in a process called mitotic slippage. The mechanisms underlying the spindle assembly checkpoint and slippage are not fully understood. It has been generally accepted that during mitosis there is a temporary shutdown of high-energy-consuming processes, such as transcription and translation. However, the synthesis of specific proteins is maintained or up-regulated since protein synthesis is necessary for entry into and progression through mitosis.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In this work we investigated whether the mitotic arrest caused by the mitotic checkpoint is independent of transcription and translation. By using immunofluorescent microscopy and western blotting, we demonstrate that inhibition of either of these processes induces a shortening of the mitotic arrest caused by the nocodazole treatment, and ultimately leads to mitotic slippage. Our western blotting and RTQ-PCR results show that inhibition of transcription during mitotic arrest does not affect the expression of the spindle checkpoint proteins, whereas it induces a significant decrease in the mRNA and protein levels of Cyclin B1. The exogenous expression of Cyclin B1 substantially rescued the mitotic phenotype in nocodazole cells treated with the inhibitors of transcription and translation.
This work emphasizes the importance of transcription and translation for the maintenance of the spindle assembly checkpoint, suggesting the existence of a mechanism dependent on cyclin B1 gene regulation during mitosis. We propose that continuous transcription of mitotic regulators is required to sustain the activation of the spindle assembly checkpoint.
PMCID: PMC2946930  PMID: 20927403
10.  Cyclin G1 regulates the outcome of taxane-induced mitotic checkpoint arrest 
Oncogene  2011;31(19):2450-2460.
Anti-mitotic chemotherapeutic agents such as taxanes activate the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) to arrest anaphase onset, but taxane-exposed cells eventually undergo slippage to exit mitosis. The therapeutic efficacy of taxanes depends on whether slippage after SAC arrest culminates in continued cell survival, or in death by apoptosis. However, the mechanisms that determine these outcomes remain unclear. Here, we identify a novel role for cyclin G1 (CCNG1), an atypical cyclin. Increased CCNG1 expression accompanies paclitaxel-induced, SAC-mediated mitotic arrest, independent of p53 integrity or signaling through the SAC component, BUBR1. CCNG1 overexpression promotes cell survival after paclitaxel exposure. Conversely, CCNG1 depletion by RNA interference delays slippage and enhances paclitaxel-induced apoptosis. Consistent with these observations, CCNG1 amplification is associated with significantly shorter post-surgical survival in patients with ovarian cancer who have received adjuvant chemotherapy with taxanes and platinum compounds. Collectively, our findings implicate CCNG1 in regulating slippage and the outcome of taxane-induced mitotic arrest, with potential implications for cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3351588  PMID: 22056875
mitotic checkpoint; cyclin G1; anti-mitotic drugs; cancer therapy
11.  Mitotic Stress Is an Integral Part of the Oncogene-Induced Senescence Program that Promotes Multinucleation and Cell Cycle Arrest 
Cell Reports  2015;12(9):1483-1496.
Oncogene-induced senescence (OIS) is a tumor suppression mechanism that blocks cell proliferation in response to oncogenic signaling. OIS is frequently accompanied by multinucleation; however, the origin of this is unknown. Here, we show that multinucleate OIS cells originate mostly from failed mitosis. Prior to senescence, mutant H-RasV12 activation in primary human fibroblasts compromised mitosis, concordant with abnormal expression of mitotic genes functionally linked to the observed mitotic spindle and chromatin defects. Simultaneously, H-RasV12 activation enhanced survival of cells with damaged mitoses, culminating in extended mitotic arrest and aberrant exit from mitosis via mitotic slippage. ERK-dependent transcriptional upregulation of Mcl1 was, at least in part, responsible for enhanced survival and slippage of cells with mitotic defects. Importantly, mitotic slippage and oncogene signaling cooperatively induced senescence and key senescence effectors p21 and p16. In summary, activated Ras coordinately triggers mitotic disruption and enhanced cell survival to promote formation of multinucleate senescent cells.
Graphical Abstract
•Multinucleate OIS cells originate from aberrant mitotic progression•H-RasV12-expressing cells in mitosis show aberrant expression of mitotic genes•H-RasV12-induced mitotic stress and increase in Mcl1 allow mitotic slippage•Mitotic slippage and oncogene signaling cooperate to establish senescence
Dikovskaya et al. describe a mechanism of multinucleation during oncogene-induced senescence. The authors show that multinucleate senescent cells mostly originate from failed mitoses. They demonstrate that oncogene-induced mitotic defects, dysregulation of mitotic genes, and Mcl1-dependent apoptosis deficiency are the basis for multinucleation via mitotic slippage that further enhances senescence-associated cell-cycle arrest.
PMCID: PMC4562906  PMID: 26299965
12.  Taxifolin Enhances Andrographolide-Induced Mitotic Arrest and Apoptosis in Human Prostate Cancer Cells via Spindle Assembly Checkpoint Activation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54577.
Andrographolide (Andro) suppresses proliferation and triggers apoptosis in many types of cancer cells. Taxifolin (Taxi) has been proposed to prevent cancer development similar to other dietary flavonoids. In the present study, the cytotoxic and apoptotic effects of the addition of Andro alone and Andro and Taxi together on human prostate carcinoma DU145 cells were assessed. Andro inhibited prostate cancer cell proliferation by mitotic arrest and activation of the intrinsic apoptotic pathway. Although the effect of Taxi alone on DU145 cell proliferation was not significant, the combined use of Taxi with Andro significantly potentiated the anti-proliferative effect of increased mitotic arrest and apoptosis by enhancing the cleavage of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, and caspases-7 and -9. Andro together with Taxi enhanced microtubule polymerization in vitro, and they induced the formation of twisted and elongated spindles in the cancer cells, thus leading to mitotic arrest. In addition, we showed that depletion of MAD2, a component in the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC), alleviated the mitotic block induced by the two compounds, suggesting that they trigger mitotic arrest by SAC activation. This study suggests that the anti-cancer activity of Andro can be significantly enhanced in combination with Taxi by disrupting microtubule dynamics and activating the SAC.
PMCID: PMC3557238  PMID: 23382917
13.  Analysis of mitosis and anti-mitotic drug responses in tumors by in vivo microscopy and single-cell pharmacodynamics 
Cancer research  2011;71(13):4608-4616.
Cancer relies upon frequent or abnormal cell division but how the tumor microenvironment affects mitotic processes in vivo remains unclear, largely due to the technical challenges of optical access, spatial resolution, and motion. We developed high-resolution in vivo microscopy methods to visualize mitosis in a murine xenograft model of human cancer. Using these methods, we determined whether the single-cell response to the anti-mitotic drug paclitaxel was the same in tumors as in cell culture; observed the impact of paclitaxel (Ptx) on the tumor response as a whole; and evaluated the single-cell pharmacodynamics of paclitaxel (by in vivo pharmacodynamic microscopy [IPDM]). Mitotic initiation was generally less frequent in tumors than in cell culture, but subsequently it proceeded normally. Paclitaxel treatment caused spindle assembly defects and mitotic arrest, followed by slippage from mitotic arrest, multinucleation and apoptosis. Compared to cell culture, the peak mitotic index in tumors exposed to paclitaxel was lower and the tumor cells survived longer after mitotic arrest, becoming multinucleated rather than dying directly from mitotic arrest. Thus, the tumor microenvironment was much less pro-apoptotic than cell culture. The morphologies associated with mitotic arrest were dose- and time-dependent, thereby providing a semi-quantitative, single-cell measure of pharmacodynamics. Although many tumor cells did not progress through Ptx-induced mitotic arrest, tumor significantly regressed in the model. Our findings demonstrate that in vivo microscopy offers a useful tool to visualize mitosis during tumor progression, drug responses, and cell fate at the single cell level.
PMCID: PMC3129392  PMID: 21712408
pharmacodynamics; in vivo microscopy; therapeutics; mitosis
14.  APC/C-Cdh1-dependent anaphase and telophase progression during mitotic slippage 
Cell Division  2012;7:4.
The spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) inhibits anaphase progression in the presence of insufficient kinetochore-microtubule attachments, but cells can eventually override mitotic arrest by a process known as mitotic slippage or adaptation. This is a problem for cancer chemotherapy using microtubule poisons.
Here we describe mitotic slippage in yeast bub2Δ mutant cells that are defective in the repression of precocious telophase onset (mitotic exit). Precocious activation of anaphase promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C)-Cdh1 caused mitotic slippage in the presence of nocodazole, while the SAC was still active. APC/C-Cdh1, but not APC/C-Cdc20, triggered anaphase progression (securin degradation, separase-mediated cohesin cleavage, sister-chromatid separation and chromosome missegregation), in addition to telophase onset (mitotic exit), during mitotic slippage. This demonstrates that an inhibitory system not only of APC/C-Cdc20 but also of APC/C-Cdh1 is critical for accurate chromosome segregation in the presence of insufficient kinetochore-microtubule attachments.
The sequential activation of APC/C-Cdc20 to APC/C-Cdh1 during mitosis is central to accurate mitosis. Precocious activation of APC/C-Cdh1 in metaphase (pre-anaphase) causes mitotic slippage in SAC-activated cells. For the prevention of mitotic slippage, concomitant inhibition of APC/C-Cdh1 may be effective for tumor therapy with mitotic spindle poisons in humans.
PMCID: PMC3305350  PMID: 22321970
Anaphase promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C); Bub2; Cdh1; mitotic exit network (MEN); mitotic slippage; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; securin
15.  Triple negative breast cancers express receptors for LHRH and are potential therapeutic targets for cytotoxic LHRH-analogs, AEZS 108 and AEZS 125 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:847.
Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a distinct subtype of breast cancer burdened with a dismal prognosis due to the lack of effective therapeutic agents. Receptors for LHRH (luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone) can be successfully targeted with AEZS-108 [AN-152], an analog of LHRH conjugated to doxorubicin. Our study evaluates the presence of this target LHRH receptor in human specimens of TNBC and investigates the efficacy and toxicity of AEZS-108 in vivo. We also studied in vitro activity of AEZS-125, a new LHRH analog conjugated with the highly potent natural compound, Disorazol Z.
69 human surgical specimens of TNBC were investigated for LHRH-R expression by immunohistochemistry. Expression of LHRH-R in two TNBC cell lines was evaluated by real time RT-PCR. Cytotoxicity of AEZS-125 was evaluated by Cell Titer Blue cytoxicity assay. LHRH- receptor expression was silenced with an siRNA in both cell lines. For the in vivo experiments an athymic nude mice model xenotransplanted with the cell lines, MDA-MB-231 and HCC 1806, was used. The animals were randomised to three groups receiving solvent only (d 1, 7, 14, i.v.) for control, AEZS-108 (d 1, 7, 14, i.v.) or doxorubicin at an equimolar dose (d 1, 7, 14, i.v.).
In human clinical specimens of TNBC, expression of the LHRH-receptor was present in 49% (n = 69).
HCC 1806 and MDA-MB-231 TNBC cells expressed mRNA for the LHRH-receptor. Silencing of the LHRH-receptor significantly decreased the cytotoxic effect of AEZS-108. MDA-MB-231 and HCC 1806 tumors xenografted into nude mice were significantly inhibited by treatment with AEZS-108; doxorubicin at equimolar doses was ineffective.
As compared to AEZS 108, the Disorazol Z – LHRH conjugate, AEZS-125, demonstrated an increased cytotoxicity in vitro in HCC 1806 and MDA-MB-231 TNBC; this was diminished by receptor blockade with synthetic LHRH agonist (triptorelin) pretreatment.
The current study confirms that LHRH-receptors are expressed by a significant proportion of TNBC and can be successfully used as homing sites for cytotoxic analogs of LHRH, such as AEZS-108 and AEZS-125.
PMCID: PMC4289186  PMID: 25410881
Targeted therapy; Triple negative breast cancer; LHRH- receptor; AEZS 108; AEZS 125
16.  Cisplatin Plus Sodium Arsenite and Hyperthermia Induces Pseudo-G1 Associated Apoptotic Cell Death in Ovarian Cancer Cells 
Toxicological Sciences  2014;139(1):74-82.
Cisplatin is effective against solid tumors including ovarian cancer. However, inherent or acquired cisplatin resistance limits clinical success. We recently demonstrated that a combination of sodium arsenite (NaAsO2) and hyperthermia sensitizes p53-expressing ovarian cancer cells to cisplatin by modulating DNA repair pathway and enhancing platinum accumulation. However, it is not understood how this combination therapy modulates cell cycle following platinum-DNA damage. The goal of the present study was to determine if NaAsO2 and hyperthermia alter cisplatin-induced G2 arrest and cause mitotic arrest and mitotic catastrophe. Human epithelial ovarian cancer cells (A2780 and A2780/CP70) were treated with cisplatin ± 20 μM NaAsO2 at 37 or 39°C for 1 h. Cisplatin ± NaAsO2 at 37 or 39°C caused cells to accumulate in G2/M compartment at 36 h after treatment. Western blot analysis of cyclin A and cyclin B suggested that combined NaAsO2, hyperthermia, and cisplatin induced mitotic arrest. However, we observed < 3% mitotic index and phosphorylation of histone H3 on serine 10 was undetectable. These results did not confirm mitotic arrest. BUBR1 (BUB1B) also was not phosphorylated, suggesting disrupted mitotic checkpoint. Postmitotic cells accumulated in pseudo-G1 as demonstrated by cyclin E stabilization, CDKN1A induction, and hypophosphorylation of retinoblastoma protein. These cells also were positive for Annexin V binding indicating they were apoptotic. In summary, cisplatin plus NaAsO2 and hyperthermia induced pseudo-G1 associated apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC4038788  PMID: 24519527
ovarian cancer; sodium arsenite; hyperthermia; cisplatin; pseudo-G1; postmitotic
17.  Quantitative live imaging of cancer and normal cells treated with Kinesin-5 inhibitors indicates significant differences in phenotypic responses and cell fate 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2008;7(11):3480-3489.
Kinesin-5 inhibitors (K5Is) are promising anti-mitotic cancer drug candidates. They cause prolonged mitotic arrest and death of cancer cells, but their full range of phenotypic effects in different cell types has been unclear. Using time-lapse microscopy of cancer and normal cell lines, we find that a novel K5I causes several different cancer and non-cancer cell types to undergo prolonged arrest in monopolar mitosis. Subsequent events, however, differed greatly between cell types. Normal diploid cells mostly slipped from mitosis and arrested in tetraploid G1, with little cell death. Several cancer cell lines either died during mitotic arrest, or following slippage. Contrary to prevailing views, mitotic slippage was not required for death, and the duration of mitotic arrest correlated poorly with the probability of death in most cell lines. We also assayed drug reversibility, and long-term responses after transient drug exposure in MCF7 breast cancer cells. While many cells divided after drug washout during mitosis, this treatment resulted in lower survival compared to washout after spontaneous slippage, likely due to chromosome segregation errors in the cells that divided. Our analysis shows that K5Is cause cancer-selective cell killing, provides important kinetic information for understanding clinical responses, and elucidates mechanisms of drug sensitivity versus resistance at the level of phenotype.
PMCID: PMC2597169  PMID: 18974392
experimental therapeutics; mitotic drugs; Kinesin-5; live-cell imaging
18.  Taxol-induced mitotic block triggers rapid onset of a p53-independent apoptotic pathway. 
Molecular Medicine  1995;1(5):506-526.
BACKGROUND: At therapeutic concentrations, the antineoplastic agent taxol selectively perturbs mitotic spindle microtubules. Taxol has recently been shown to induce apoptosis, similar to the mechanism of cell death induced by other antineoplastic agents. However, taxol has shown efficacy against drug-refractory cancers, raising the possibility that this pharmacological agent may trigger an alternative apoptotic pathway. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The kinetics and IC50 of mitotic (M) block, aberrant mitosis, and cytotoxicity following taxol treatment were analyzed in human cell lines as well as normal mouse embryo fibroblasts (MEFs) and MEFs derived from p53-null mice. Apoptosis was followed by DNA gel electrophoresis and by in situ DNA end-labeling (TUNEL). RESULTS: Taxol induced two forms of cell cycle arrest: either directly in early M at prophase or, for those cells progressing through aberrant mitosis, arrest in G1 as multimininucleated cells. TUNEL labeling revealed that DNA nicking occurred within 30 min of the arrest in prophase. In contrast, G1-arrested, multimininucleated cells became TUNEL positive only after several days. In the subset of cells that became blocked directly in prophase, both wt p53-expressing and p53-null MEFs responded similarly to taxol, showing rapid onset of DNA nicking and apoptosis. However, p53-null MEFs progressing through aberrant mitosis failed to arrest in the subsequent G1 phase or to become TUNEL positive, and remained viable. CONCLUSIONS: Taxol induces two forms of cell cycle arrest, which in turn induce two independent apoptotic pathways. Arrest in prophase induces rapid onset of a p53-independent pathway, whereas G1-block and the resulting slow (3-5 days) apoptotic pathway are p53 dependent.
PMCID: PMC2229961  PMID: 8529117
19.  Synergistic antitumor activity of oncolytic reovirus and chemotherapeutic agents in non-small cell lung cancer cells 
Molecular Cancer  2009;8:47.
Reovirus type 3 Dearing strain (ReoT3D) has an inherent propensity to preferentially infect and destroy cancer cells. The oncolytic activity of ReoT3D as a single agent has been demonstrated in vitro and in vivo against various cancers, including colon, pancreatic, ovarian and breast cancers. Its human safety and potential efficacy are currently being investigated in early clinical trials. In this study, we investigated the in vitro combination effects of ReoT3D and chemotherapeutic agents against human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
ReoT3D alone exerted significant cytolytic activity in 7 of 9 NSCLC cell lines examined, with the 50% effective dose, defined as the initial virus dose to achieve 50% cell killing after 48 hours of infection, ranging from 1.46 ± 0.12 ~2.68 ± 0.25 (mean ± SD) log10 pfu/cell. Chou-Talalay analysis of the combination of ReoT3D with cisplatin, gemcitabine, or vinblastine demonstrated strong synergistic effects on cell killing, but only in cell lines that were sensitive to these compounds. In contrast, the combination of ReoT3D and paclitaxel was invariably synergistic in all cell lines tested, regardless of their levels of sensitivity to either agent. Treatment of NSCLC cell lines with the ReoT3D-paclitaxel combination resulted in increased poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase cleavage and caspase activity compared to single therapy, indicating enhanced apoptosis induction in dually treated NSCLC cells. NSCLC cells treated with the ReoT3D-paclitaxel combination showed increased proportions of mitotic and apoptotic cells, and a more pronounced level of caspase-3 activation was demonstrated in mitotically arrested cells.
These data suggest that the oncolytic activity of ReoT3D can be potentiated by taxanes and other chemotherapeutic agents, and that the ReoT3D-taxane combination most effectively achieves synergy through accelerated apoptosis triggered by prolonged mitotic arrest.
PMCID: PMC2723073  PMID: 19594950
20.  Plk1 Inhibition Causes Post-Mitotic DNA Damage and Senescence in a Range of Human Tumor Cell Lines 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e111060.
Plk1 is a checkpoint protein whose role spans all of mitosis and includes DNA repair, and is highly conserved in eukaryotes from yeast to man. Consistent with this wide array of functions for Plk1, the cellular consequences of Plk1 disruption are diverse, spanning delays in mitotic entry, mitotic spindle abnormalities, and transient mitotic arrest leading to mitotic slippage and failures in cytokinesis. In this work, we present the in vitro and in vivo consequences of Plk1 inhibition in cancer cells using potent, selective small-molecule Plk1 inhibitors and Plk1 genetic knock-down approaches. We demonstrate for the first time that cellular senescence is the predominant outcome of Plk1 inhibition in some cancer cell lines, whereas in other cancer cell lines the dominant outcome appears to be apoptosis, as has been reported in the literature. We also demonstrate strong induction of DNA double-strand breaks in all six lines examined (as assayed by γH2AX), which occurs either during mitotic arrest or mitotic-exit, and may be linked to the downstream induction of senescence. Taken together, our findings expand the view of Plk1 inhibition, demonstrating the occurrence of a non-apoptotic outcome in some settings. Our findings are also consistent with the possibility that mitotic arrest observed as a result of Plk1 inhibition is at least partially due to the presence of unrepaired double-strand breaks in mitosis. These novel findings may lead to alternative strategies for the development of novel therapeutic agents targeting Plk1, in the selection of biomarkers, patient populations, combination partners and dosing regimens.
PMCID: PMC4218841  PMID: 25365521
21.  Stochastic Competition between Mechanistically Independent Slippage and Death Pathways Determines Cell Fate during Mitotic Arrest 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e15724.
Variability in cell-to-cell behavior within clonal populations can be attributed to the inherent stochasticity of biochemical reactions. Most single-cell studies have examined variation in behavior due to randomness in gene transcription. Here we investigate the mechanism of cell fate choice and the origin of cell-to-cell variation during mitotic arrest, when transcription is silenced. Prolonged mitotic arrest is commonly observed in cells treated with anti-mitotic drugs. Cell fate during mitotic arrest is determined by two alternative pathways, one promoting cell death, the other promoting cyclin B1 degradation, which leads to mitotic slippage and survival. It has been unclear whether these pathways are mechanistically coupled or independent. In this study we experimentally uncoupled these two pathways using zVAD-fmk to block cell death or Cdc20 knockdown to block slippage. We then used time-lapse imaging to score the kinetics of single cells adopting the remaining fate. We also used kinetic simulation to test whether the behaviors of death versus slippage in cell populations where both pathways are active can be quantitatively recapitulated by a model that assumes stochastic competition between the pathways. Our data are well fit by a model where the two pathways are mechanistically independent, and cell fate is determined by a stochastic kinetic competition between them that results in cell-to-cell variation.
PMCID: PMC3006339  PMID: 21203573
22.  Cellular responses to a prolonged delay in mitosis are determined by a DNA damage response controlled by Bcl-2 family proteins 
Open Biology  2015;5(3):140156.
Anti-cancer drugs that disrupt mitosis inhibit cell proliferation and induce apoptosis, although the mechanisms of these responses are poorly understood. Here, we characterize a mitotic stress response that determines cell fate in response to microtubule poisons. We show that mitotic arrest induced by these drugs produces a temporally controlled DNA damage response (DDR) characterized by the caspase-dependent formation of γH2AX foci in non-apoptotic cells. Following exit from a delayed mitosis, this initial response results in activation of DDR protein kinases, phosphorylation of the tumour suppressor p53 and a delay in subsequent cell cycle progression. We show that this response is controlled by Mcl-1, a regulator of caspase activation that becomes degraded during mitotic arrest. Chemical inhibition of Mcl-1 and the related proteins Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL by a BH3 mimetic enhances the mitotic DDR, promotes p53 activation and inhibits subsequent cell cycle progression. We also show that inhibitors of DDR protein kinases as well as BH3 mimetics promote apoptosis synergistically with taxol (paclitaxel) in a variety of cancer cell lines. Our work demonstrates the role of mitotic DNA damage responses in determining cell fate in response to microtubule poisons and BH3 mimetics, providing a rationale for anti-cancer combination chemotherapies.
PMCID: PMC4389791  PMID: 25761368
mitosis; apoptosis; DNA damage response; paclitaxel; caspase
23.  Microtubules do not promote mitotic slippage when the spindle assembly checkpoint cannot be satisfied 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2008;182(4):623-629.
When the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) cannot be satisfied, cells exit mitosis via mitotic slippage. In microtubule (MT) poisons, slippage requires cyclin B proteolysis, and it appears to be accelerated in drug concentrations that allow some MT assembly. To determine if MTs accelerate slippage, we followed mitosis in human RPE-1 cells exposed to various spindle poisons. At 37°C, the duration of mitosis in nocodazole, colcemid, or vinblastine concentrations that inhibit MT assembly varied from 20 to 30 h, revealing that different MT poisons differentially depress the cyclin B destruction rate during slippage. The duration of mitosis in Eg5 inhibitors, which induce monopolar spindles without disrupting MT dynamics, was the same as in cells lacking MTs. Thus, in the presence of numerous unattached kinetochores, MTs do not accelerate slippage. Finally, compared with cells lacking MTs, exit from mitosis is accelerated over a range of spindle poison concentrations that allow MT assembly because the SAC becomes satisfied on abnormal spindles and not because slippage is accelerated.
PMCID: PMC2518701  PMID: 18710927
24.  An Inhibitor of the Kinesin Spindle Protein Activates the Intrinsic Apoptotic Pathway Independently of p53 and De Novo Protein Synthesis▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;27(2):689-698.
The kinesin spindle protein (KSP), a microtubule motor protein, is essential for the formation of bipolar spindles during mitosis. Inhibition of KSP activates the spindle checkpoint and causes apoptosis. It was shown that prolonged inhibition of KSP activates Bax and caspase-3, which requires a competent spindle checkpoint and couples with mitotic slippage. Here we investigated how Bax is activated by KSP inhibition and the roles of Bax and p53 in KSP inhibitor-induced apoptosis. We demonstrate that small interfering RNA-mediated knockdown of Bax greatly attenuates KSP inhibitor-induced apoptosis and that Bax activation is upstream of caspase activation. This indicates that Bax mediates the lethality of KSP inhibitors and that KSP inhibition provokes apoptosis via the intrinsic apoptotic pathway where Bax activation is prior to caspase activation. Although the BH3-only protein Puma is induced after mitotic slippage, suppression of de novo protein synthesis that abrogates Puma induction does not block activation of Bax or caspase-3, indicating that Bax activation is triggered by a posttranslational event. Comparison of KSP inhibitor-induced apoptosis between matched cell lines containing either functional or deficient p53 reveals that inhibition of KSP induces apoptosis independently of p53 and that p53 is dispensable for spindle checkpoint function. Thus, KSP inhibitors should be active in p53-deficient tumors.
PMCID: PMC1800817  PMID: 17101792
25.  Inhibitors of Phosphatidylinositol 3′-Kinases Promote Mitotic Cell Death in HeLa Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35665.
The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway plays an important role in many biological processes, including cell cycle progression, cell growth, survival, actin rearrangement and migration, and intracellular vesicular transport. However, the involvement of the PI3K pathway in the regulation of mitotic cell death remains unclear. In this study, we treated HeLa cells with the PI3K inhibitors, 3-methyladenine (3-MA, as well as a widely used autophagy inhibitor) and wortmannin to examine their effects on cell fates using live cell imaging. Treatment with 3-MA decreased cell viability in a time- and dose-dependent manner and was associated with caspase-3 activation. Interestingly, 3-MA-induced cell death was not affected by RNA interference-mediated knockdown (KD) of beclin1 (an essential protein for autophagy) in HeLa cells, or by deletion of atg5 (an essential autophagy gene) in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). These data indicate that cell death induced by 3-MA occurs independently of its ability to inhibit autophagy. The results from live cell imaging studies showed that the inhibition of PI3Ks increased the occurrence of lagging chromosomes and cell cycle arrest and cell death in prometaphase. Furthermore, PI3K inhibitors promoted nocodazole-induced mitotic cell death and reduced mitotic slippage. Overexpression of Akt (the downstream target of PI3K) antagonized PI3K inhibitor-induced mitotic cell death and promoted nocodazole-induced mitotic slippage. These results suggest a novel role for the PI3K pathway in regulating mitotic progression and preventing mitotic cell death and provide justification for the use of PI3K inhibitors in combination with anti-mitotic drugs to combat cancer.
PMCID: PMC3335795  PMID: 22545128

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