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1.  JNK inhibitor SP600125 promotes the formation of polymerized tubulin, leading to G2/M phase arrest, endoreduplication, and delayed apoptosis 
Experimental & Molecular Medicine  2009;41(9):665-677.
The JNK inhibitor SP600125 strongly inhibits cell proliferation in many human cancer cells by blocking cell-cycle progression and inducing apoptosis. Despite extensive study, the mechanism by which SP600125 inhibits mitosis-related effects in human leukemia cells remains unclear. We investigated the effects of SP600125 on the inhibition of cell proliferation and the cell cycle, and on microtubule dynamics in vivo and in vitro. Treatment of synchronized leukemia cells with varying concentrations of SP600125 results in significant G2/M cell cycle arrest with elevated p21 levels, phosphorylation of histone H3 within 24 h, and endoreduplication with elevated Cdk2 protein levels after 48 h. SP600125 also induces significant abnormal microtubule dynamics in vivo. High concentrations of SP600125 (200 µM) were required to disorganize microtubule polymerization in vitro. Additionally, SP600125-induced delayed apoptosis and cell death was accompanied by significant poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) cleavage and caspase-3 activity in the late phase (at 72 h). Endoreduplication showed a greater increase in ectopic Bcl-2-expressing U937 cells at 72 h than in wild-type U937 cells without delayed apoptosis. These results indicate that Bcl-2 suppresses apoptosis and SP600125-induced G2/M arrest and endoreduplication. Therefore, we suggest that SP600125 induces mitotic arrest by inducing abnormal spindle microtubule dynamics.
PMCID: PMC2753660  PMID: 19478553
anthra(1,9-cd)pyrazol-6(2H)-one; apoptosis; cell cycle; cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21; JNK mitogen-activated protein kinases; microtubule; proto-oncogene proteins c-bcl-2
2.  Transgenerational cell fate profiling 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(1):183-190.
The illicit generation of tetraploid cells constitutes a prominent driver of oncogenesis, as it often precedes the development of aneuploidy and genomic instability. In addition, tetraploid (pre-)malignant cells display an elevated resistance against radio- and chemotherapy. Here, we report a strategy to preferentially kill tetraploid tumor cells based on the broad-spectrum kinase inhibitor SP600125. Live videomicroscopy revealed that SP600125 affects the execution of mitosis, impedes proper cell division and/or activates apoptosis in near-to-tetraploid, though less so in parental, cancer cells. We propose a novel graphical model to quantify the differential response of diploid and tetraploid cells to mitotic perturbators, including SP600125, which we baptized “transgenerational cell fate profiling.” We speculate that this representation constitutes a valid alternative to classical “single-cell fate” and “genealogical” profiling and, hence, may facilitate the analysis of cell fate within a heterogeneous population as well as the visual examination of cell cycle alterations.
PMCID: PMC3570510  PMID: 23255111
cell death; cytokinesis failure; mitotic catastrophe; microtubules; polyploidy; time-lapse microscopy
3.  Phosphorylation of Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinase 1 at Thr421/Ser424 and Dephosphorylation at Thr389 Regulates SP600125-Induced Polyploidization of Megakaryocytic Cell Lines 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114389.
Megakaryocytes (MKs) are one of the few cell types that become polyploid; however, the mechanisms by which these cells are designated to become polyploid are not fully understood. In this investigation, we successfully established two relatively synchronous polyploid cell models by inducing Dami and CMK cells with SP600125. We found that SP600125 induced the polyploidization of Dami and CMK cells, concomitant with the phosphorylation of ribosomal protein S6 kinase 1 (S6K1) at Thr421/Ser424 and dephosphorylation at Thr389. The polyploidization was partially blocked by H-89, a cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) inhibitor, through direct binding to S6K1, leading to dephosphorylation at Thr421/Ser424 and phosphorylation at Thr389, independent of PKA. Overexpression of a rapamycin-resistant mutant of S6K1 further enhanced the inhibitory effect of LY294002 on the SP600125-induced polyploidization of Dami and CMK cells. SP600125 also induced the polyploidization of Meg-01 cells, which are derived from a patient with chronic myelogenous leukemia, without causing a significant change in S6K1 phosphorylation. Additionally, SP600125 induced the polyploidization of HEL cells, which are derived from a patient with erythroleukemia, and phosphorylation at Thr389 of S6K1 was detected. However, the polyploidization of both Meg-01 cells and HEL cells as a result of SP600125 treatment was lower than that of SP600125-induced Dami and CMK cells, and it was not blocked by H-89 despite the increased phosphorylation of S6K1 at Thr389 in both cell lines in response to H-89. Given that the Dami and CMK cell lines were derived from patients with acute megakaryocytic leukemia (AMKL) and expressed high levels of platelet-specific antigens, our data suggested that SP600125-induced polyploidization is cell-type specific, that these cell lines were more differentiated, and that phosphorylation at Thr421/Ser424 and dephosphorylation at Thr389 of S6K1 may play an important role in the SP600125-induced polyploidization of these cell lines synergistically with other signaling pathways.
PMCID: PMC4259319  PMID: 25486532
4.  Characterization of novel MPS1 inhibitors with preclinical anticancer activity 
Cell Death and Differentiation  2013;20(11):1532-1545.
Monopolar spindle 1 (MPS1), a mitotic kinase that is overexpressed in several human cancers, contributes to the alignment of chromosomes to the metaphase plate as well as to the execution of the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC). Here, we report the identification and functional characterization of three novel inhibitors of MPS1 of two independent structural classes, N-(4-{2-[(2-cyanophenyl)amino][1,2,4]triazolo[1,5-a]pyridin-6-yl}phenyl)-2-phenylacetamide (Mps-BAY1) (a triazolopyridine), N-cyclopropyl-4-{8-[(2-methylpropyl)amino]-6-(quinolin-5-yl)imidazo[1,2-a]pyrazin-3-yl}benzamide (Mps-BAY2a) and N-cyclopropyl-4-{8-(isobutylamino)imidazo[1,2-a]pyrazin-3-yl}benzamide (Mps-BAY2b) (two imidazopyrazines). By selectively inactivating MPS1, these small inhibitors can arrest the proliferation of cancer cells, causing their polyploidization and/or their demise. Cancer cells treated with Mps-BAY1 or Mps-BAY2a manifested multiple signs of mitotic perturbation including inefficient chromosomal congression during metaphase, unscheduled SAC inactivation and severe anaphase defects. Videomicroscopic cell fate profiling of histone 2B-green fluorescent protein-expressing cells revealed the capacity of MPS1 inhibitors to subvert the correct timing of mitosis as they induce a premature anaphase entry in the context of misaligned metaphase plates. Hence, in the presence of MPS1 inhibitors, cells either divided in a bipolar (but often asymmetric) manner or entered one or more rounds of abortive mitoses, generating gross aneuploidy and polyploidy, respectively. In both cases, cells ultimately succumbed to the mitotic catastrophe-induced activation of the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis. Of note, low doses of MPS1 inhibitors and paclitaxel (a microtubular poison) synergized at increasing the frequency of chromosome misalignments and missegregations in the context of SAC inactivation. This resulted in massive polyploidization followed by the activation of mitotic catastrophe. A synergistic interaction between paclitaxel and MPS1 inhibitors could also be demonstrated in vivo, as the combination of these agents efficiently reduced the growth of tumor xenografts and exerted superior antineoplastic effects compared with either compound employed alone. Altogether, these results suggest that MPS1 inhibitors may exert robust anticancer activity, either as standalone therapeutic interventions or combined with microtubule-targeting chemicals.
PMCID: PMC3792427  PMID: 23933817
chromosomal instability; colon cancer; mitochondrial membrane permeabilization; mitotic spindle; SP600125
5.  Contrasting Roles of Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases in Cellular Entry and Replication of Hepatitis C Virus: MKNK1 Facilitates Cell Entry 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(8):4214-4224.
The human kinome comprises over 800 individual kinases. These contribute in multiple ways to regulation of cellular metabolism and may have direct and indirect effects on virus replication. Kinases are tempting therapeutic targets for drug development, but achieving sufficient specificity is often a challenge for chemical inhibitors. While using inhibitors to assess whether c-Jun N-terminal (JNK) kinases regulate hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication, we encountered unexpected off-target effects that led us to discover a role for a mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-related kinase, MAPK interacting serine/threonine kinase 1 (MKNK1), in viral entry. Two JNK inhibitors, AS601245 and SP600125, as well as RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated knockdown of JNK1 and JNK2, enhanced replication of HCV replicon RNAs as well as infectious genome-length RNA transfected into Huh-7 cells. JNK knockdown also enhanced replication following infection with cell-free virus, suggesting that JNK actively restricts HCV replication. Despite this, AS601245 and SP600125 both inhibited viral entry. Screening of a panel of inhibitors targeting kinases that may be modulated by off-target effects of AS601245 and SP600125 led us to identify MKNK1 as a host factor involved in HCV entry. Chemical inhibition or siRNA knockdown of MKNK1 significantly impaired entry of genotype 1a HCV and HCV-pseudotyped lentiviral particles (HCVpp) in Huh-7 cells but had only minimal impact on viral RNA replication or cell proliferation and viability. We propose a model by which MKNK1 acts to facilitate viral entry downstream of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), both of which have been implicated in the entry process.
PMCID: PMC3624358  PMID: 23365451
Acetaminophen (APAP) overdose, which causes liver injury in animals and humans, activates c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). Although it was shown that the JNK inhibitor SP600125 effectively reduced APAP hepatotoxicity, the mechanisms of protection remain unclear. C57Bl/6 mice were treated with 10 mg/kg SP600125 or vehicle (8% dimethylsulfoxide) 1h before 600 mg/kg APAP administration. APAP time-dependently induced JNK activation (detected by JNK phosphorylation). SP600125, but not the vehicle, reduced JNK activation, attenuated mitochondrial Bax translocation and prevented the mitochondrial release of apoptosis-inducing factor at 4–12 h. Nuclear DNA fragmentation, nitrotyrosine staining, tissue GSSG levels and liver injury (plasma ALT release and necrosis) were partially attenuated by the vehicle (−65%) and completely eliminated by SP600125 (−98%) at 6 and 12h. Furthermore, SP600125 attenuated the increase of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) mRNA and protein. However, APAP did not enhance plasma nitrite+nitrate levels (NO formation); SP600125 had no effect on this parameter. The iNOS inhibitor L-NIL did not reduce NO formation or injury after APAP but prevented NO formation caused by endotoxin. Since SP600125 completely eliminated the increase in hepatic GSSG levels, an indicator of mitochondrial oxidant stress, it is concluded that the inhibition of peroxynitrite was mainly caused by reduced superoxide formation. Our data suggest that the JNK inhibitor SP600125 protects against APAP-induced liver injury in part by attenuation of mitochondrial Bax translocation but mainly by preventing mitochondrial oxidant stress and peroxynitrite formation and thereby preventing the mitochondrial permeability transition pore opening, a key event in APAP-induced cell necrosis.
PMCID: PMC2885557  PMID: 20423716
Acetaminophen; Hepatotoxicity; Mitochondria; JNK; SP600125; Bax; Oxidant Stress
7.  DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK)-deficient human glioblastoma cells are preferentially sensitized by Zebularine 
Carcinogenesis  2009;31(2):184-191.
Brain tumor cells respond poorly to radiotherapy and chemotherapy due to inherently efficient anti-apoptotic and DNA repair mechanisms. This necessitates the development of new strategies for brain cancer therapy. Here, we report that the DNA-demethylating agent Zebularine preferentially sensitizes the killing of human glioblastomas deficient in DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK). In contrast to DNA-PK-proficient human glioblastoma cells (MO59K), cytotoxicity assay with increasing Zebularine concentrations up to 300 μM resulted in a specific elevation of cell killing in DNA-PK-deficient MO59J cells. Further, an elevated frequency of polyploid cells observed in MO59J cells after Zebularine treatment pointed out a deficiency in mitotic checkpoint control. Existence of mitotic checkpoint deficiency in MO59J cells was confirmed by the abnormal centrosome number observed in Zebularine-treated MO59J cells. Although depletion of DNA methyltransferase 1 by Zebularine occurred at similar levels in both cell lines, MO59J cells displayed increased extent of DNA demethylation detected both at the gene promoter-specific level and at the genome overall level. Consistent with increased sensitivity, deoxy-Zebularine adduct level in the genomic DNA was 3- to 6-fold higher in MO59J than in MO59K cells. Elevated micronuclei frequency observed after Zebularine treatment in MO59J cells indicates the impairment of DNA repair response in MO59J cells. Collectively, our study suggests that DNA-PK is the major determining factor for cellular response to Zebularine.
PMCID: PMC2812572  PMID: 19933707
8.  SP600125 suppresses Cdk1 and induces endoreplication directly from G2 phase, independent of JNK inhibition 
Oncogene  2010;29(11):1702-1716.
Cell cycle controls ensure that DNA replication (S phase) follows mitosis resulting in two precise copies of the genome. A failure of the control mechanisms can result in multiple rounds of DNA replication without cell division. In endoreplication, cells with replicated genomes bypass mitosis, then replicate their DNA again, resulting in polyploidy. Endoreplication from G2 phase lacks all hallmarks of mitosis. Using synchronized cells, we show that the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibitor, SP600125, prevents the entry of cells into mitosis and leads to endoreplication of DNA from G2 phase. We show that cells proceed from G2 phase to replicate their DNA in the absence of mitosis. This effect of SP600125 is independent of its suppression of JNK activity. Instead, the inhibitory effect of SP600125 on mitotic entry predominantly occurs upstream of Aurora A kinase and Polo-like kinase 1, resulting in a failure to remove the inhibitory phosphorylation of Cdk1. Importantly, our results directly show that the inhibition of Cdk1 activity and the persistence of Cdk2 activity in G2 cells induces endoreplication without mitosis. Furthermore, endoreplication from G2 phase is independent of p53 control.
PMCID: PMC3145494  PMID: 20062077
Cdk1 activation; endoreplication; G2/M progression; JNK; polyploidy; SP600125
9.  Downregulation of an Aim-1 Kinase Couples with Megakaryocytic Polyploidization of Human Hematopoietic Cells 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2001;152(2):275-288.
During the late phase of megakaryopoiesis, megakaryocytes undergo polyploidization, which is characterized by DNA duplication without concomitant cell division. However, it remains unknown by which mechanisms this process occurs. AIM-1 and STK15 belong to the Aurora/increase-in-ploidy (Ipl)1 serine/threonine kinase family and play key roles in mitosis. In a human interleukin-3–dependent cell line, F-36P, the expressions of AIM-1 and STK15 mRNA were specifically observed at G2/M phase of the cell cycle during proliferation. In contrast, the expressions of AIM-1 and STK15 were continuously repressed during megakaryocytic polyploidization of human erythro/megakaryocytic cell lines (F-36P, K562, and CMK) treated with thrombopoietin, activated ras (H-rasG12V), or phorbol ester. Furthermore, their expressions were suppressed during thrombopoietin-induced polyploidization of normal human megakaryocytes. Activation of AIM-1 by the induced expression of AIM-1(wild-type) canceled TPA-induced polyploidization of K562 cells significantly, whereas that of STK15 did not. Moreover, suppression of AIM-1 by the induced expression of AIM-1 (K/R, dominant-negative type) led to polyploidization in 25% of K562 cells, whereas STK15(K/R) showed no effect. Also, the induced expression of AIM-1(K/R) in CMK cells provoked polyploidization up to 32N. These results suggested that downregulation of AIM-1 at M phase may be involved in abortive mitosis and polyploid formation of megakaryocytes.
PMCID: PMC2199624  PMID: 11266445
AIM-1; STK15; polyploidization; megakaryocyte; cell cycle
10.  p53 Suppresses Structural Chromosome Instability Following Mitotic Arrest In Human Cells 
Oncogene  2010;29(13):1929-1940.
The p53 tumor suppressor inhibits the proliferation of cells which undergo prolonged activation of the mitotic checkpoint. However, the function of this antiproliferative response is not well defined. Here we report that p53 suppresses structural chromosome instability following mitotic arrest in human cells. In both HCT116 colon cancer cells and normal human fibroblasts, DNA breaks occurred during mitotic arrest in a p53-independent manner, but p53 was required to suppress the proliferation and structural chromosome instability of the resulting polyploid cells. In contrast, cells made polyploid without mitotic arrest exhibited neither significant structural chromosome instability nor p53-dependent cell cycle arrest. We also observed that p53 suppressed both the frequency and structural chromosome instability of spontaneous polyploids in HCT116 cells. Furthermore, time-lapse videomicroscopy revealed that polyploidization of p53−/− HCT116 cells is frequently accompanied by mitotic arrest. These data suggest that a function of the p53-dependent postmitotic response is the prevention of structural chromosome instability following prolonged activation of the mitotic checkpoint. Accordingly, our study suggests a novel mechanism of tumor suppression for p53, as well as a potential role for p53 in the outcome of antimitotic chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC2848712  PMID: 20062083
p53; cell cycle arrest; chromosomal instability; DNA damage; mitotic checkpoint; polypoidization
11.  Increased JNK1 Signaling Pathway Is Responsible for ABCG2-Mediated Multidrug Resistance in Human Colon Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e41763.
Multidrug resistance remains a major obstacle to effective chemotherapy of colon cancer. ABCG2, as a half-transporter of the G subfamily of ATP-binding cassette transporter genes (ABC transporters), is known to play a crucial role in multidrug resistance. However, the molecular mechanism of controlling ABCG2 expression in drug resistance of colon cancer is unclear and scarcely reported. In the present study, we systematically investigate the potential role of the c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) signal pathway in ABCG2-induced multidrug resistance in colon cancer. In the hydroxycamptothecin (HCPT) resistant cell line SW1116/HCPT from human colon cancer cell line SW1116, ABCG2 is the major factor for multidrug resistance, other than well-studied ABCB1 or ABCC1. Our findings indicate that blocking the JNK pathway by pathway inhibitor SP600125 reduces the expression level and transport function of ABCG2 in drug-resistant cells SW116/HCPT. Notably, the experiments of small interfering RNA directed against JNK1 and JNK2 show that only silence of JNK1 gene has the equal effect as SP600125 on dephosphorylation of transcription factor c-Jun and the expression of ABCG2 protein, while the corresponding phenomena were not observed after silence of JNK2 gene. Meanwhile, SP600125 induces the apoptosis of SW116/HCPT cells by promoting the cleavage of PARP and suppressing the anti-apoptotic protein survivin and bcl-2, and increases the sensitivity of SW1116/HCPT to HCPT. Taken together, our work demonstrated that JNK1/c-jun signaling pathway was involved in ABCG2-mediated multidrug resistance in colon cancer cells. Definitely, inhibition of the JNK1/c-jun pathway is useful for reversing ABCG2-mediated drug resistance in HCPT-resistant colon cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3411563  PMID: 22870247
12.  The Role of JNK and p38 MAPK Activities in UVA-Induced Signaling Pathways Leading to AP-1 Activation and c-Fos Expression1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2003;5(4):319-329.
To further delineate ultraviolet A (UVA) signaling pathways in the human keratinocyte cell line HaCaT, we examined the potential role of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) in UVA-induced activator protein-1 (AP-1) transactivation and c-Fos expression. UVA-induced phosphorylation of p38 and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) proteins was detected immediately after irradiation and disappeared after approximately 2 hours. Conversely, phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase was significantly inhibited for up to 1 hour post-UVA irradiation. To examine the role of p38 and JNK MAPKs in UVA-induced AP-1 and c-fos transactivations, the selective pharmacologic MAPK inhibitors, SB202190 (p38 inhibitor) and SP600125 (JNK inhibitor), were used to independently treat stably transfected HaCaT cells in luciferase reporter assays. Both SB202190 and SP600125 dose-dependently inhibited UVA-induced AP-1 and c-fos transactivations. SB202190 (0.25–0.5 µM) and SP600125 (62–125 nM) treatments also primarily inhibited UVA-induced c-Fos expression. These results demonstrated that activation of both JNK and p38 play critical role in UVA-mediated AP-1 transactivation and c-Fos expression in these human keratinocyte cells. Targeted inhibition of these MAPKs with their selective pharmacologic inhibitors may be effective chemopreventive strategies for UVA-induced nonmelanoma skin cancer.
PMCID: PMC1502419  PMID: 14511403
UVA; AP-1; MAPK; c-Fos; HaCaT
13.  Longikaurin A, a natural ent-kaurane, induces G2/M phase arrest via downregulation of Skp2 and apoptosis induction through ROS/JNK/c-Jun pathway in hepatocellular carcinoma cells 
Cell Death & Disease  2014;5(3):e1137-.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common form of primary liver cancer, and is also highly resistant to conventional chemotherapy treatments. In this study, we report that Longikaurin A (LK-A), an ent-kaurane diterpenoid isolated from the plant Isodon ternifolius, induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in human HCC cell lines. LK-A also suppressed tumor growth in SMMC-7721 xenograft models, without inducing any notable major organ-related toxicity. LK-A treatment led to reduced expression of the proto-oncogene S phase kinase-associated protein 2 (Skp2) in SMMC-7721 cells. Lower Skp2 levels correlated with increased expression of p21 and p-cdc2 (Try15), and a corresponding decrease in protein levels of Cyclin B1 and cdc2. Overexpression of Skp2 significantly inhibited LK-A-induced cell cycle arrest in SMMC-7721 cells, suggesting that LK-A may target Skp2 to arrest cells at the G2/M phase. LK-A also induced reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and apoptosis in SMMC-7721 cells. LK-A induced phosphorylation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), but not extracellular signal-regulated kinase and P38 MAP kinase. Treatment with, the JNK inhibitor SP600125 prevented LK-A-induced apoptosis in SMMC-7721 cells. Moreover, the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine prevented phosphorylation of both JNK and c-Jun. Taken together, these data indicate that LK-A induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in cancer cells by dampening Skp2 expression, and thereby activating the ROS/JNK/c-Jun signaling pathways. LK-A is therefore a potential lead compound for development of antitumor drugs targeting HCC.
PMCID: PMC3973226  PMID: 24651440
Longikaurin A; hepatocellular carcinoma; cell cycle arrest; apoptosis; Skp2
14.  JNK-Dependent Stat3 Phosphorylation Contributes to Akt Activation in Response to Arsenic Exposure 
Toxicological Sciences  2012;129(2):363-371.
Environmental exposure to arsenic, especially the trivalent inorganic form (As3+), has been linked to human cancers in addition to a number of other diseases including skin lesions, cardiovascular disorders, neuropathy, and internal organ injury. In the present study, we describe a novel signaling axis of the c-Jun NH2 kinase (JNK) and signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (Stat3) and its involvement in As3+-induced Akt activation in human bronchial epithelial cells. As3+ activates JNK and induces phosphorylation of the Stat3 at serine 727 (S727) in a dose- and time-dependent manner, which occurred concomitantly with Akt activation. Disruption of the JNK signaling pathway by treatment with the JNK inhibitor SP600125, siRNA knockdown of JNK, or genetic deficiency of the JNK1 or JNK2 gene abrogated As3+-induced S727 phosphorylation of Stat3, Akt activation, and the consequent release of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and migration of the cells. Similarly, pretreatment of the cells with Stat3 inhibitor or Stat3 siRNA prevented Akt activation and VEGF release from the cells in response to As3+ treatment. Taken together, these data revealed a new signaling mechanism that might be pivotal in As3+-induced malignant transformation of the cells by linking the key stress signaling pathway, JNK, to the activation of Stat3 and the carcinogenic kinase, Akt.
PMCID: PMC3529643  PMID: 22696236
15.  Mitotic catastrophe triggered in human cancer cells by the viral protein apoptin 
Cell Death & Disease  2013;4(2):e487-.
Mitotic catastrophe is an oncosuppressive mechanism that senses mitotic failure leading to cell death or senescence. As such, it protects against aneuploidy and genetic instability, and its induction in cancer cells by exogenous agents is currently seen as a promising therapeutic end point. Apoptin, a small protein from Chicken Anemia Virus (CAV), is known for its ability to selectively induce cell death in human tumor cells. Here, we show that apoptin triggers p53-independent abnormal spindle formation in osteosarcoma cells. Approximately 50% of apoptin-positive cells displayed non-bipolar spindles, a 10-fold increase as compared to control cells. Besides, tumor cells expressing apoptin are greatly limited in their progress through anaphase and telophase, and a significant drop in mitotic cells past the meta-to-anaphase transition is observed. Time-lapse microscopy showed that mitotic osteosarcoma cells expressing apoptin displayed aberrant mitotic figures and/or had a prolonged cycling time during mitosis. Importantly, all dividing cells expressing apoptin eventually underwent cell death either during mitosis or during the following interphase. We infer that apoptin can efficiently trigger cell death in dividing human tumor cells through induction of mitotic catastrophe. However, the killing activity of apoptin is not only confined to dividing cells, as the CAV-derived protein is also able to trigger caspase-3 activation and apoptosis in non-mitotic cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3734808  PMID: 23392175
apoptosis; metaphase–anaphase transition; APC/C; non-bipolar spindle; mitotic instability
16.  Progressive Telomere Dysfunction Causes Cytokinesis Failure and Leads to the Accumulation of Polyploid Cells 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(4):e1002679.
Most cancer cells accumulate genomic abnormalities at a remarkably rapid rate, as they are unable to maintain their chromosome structure and number. Excessively short telomeres, a known source of chromosome instability, are observed in early human-cancer lesions. Besides telomere dysfunction, it has been suggested that a transient phase of polyploidization, in most cases tetraploidization, has a causative role in cancer. Proliferation of tetraploids can gradually generate subtetraploid lineages of unstable cells that might fire the carcinogenic process by promoting further aneuploidy and genomic instability. Given the significance of telomere dysfunction and tetraploidy in the early stages of carcinogenesis, we investigated whether there is a connection between these two important promoters of chromosomal instability. We report that human mammary epithelial cells exhibiting progressive telomere dysfunction, in a pRb deficient and wild-type p53 background, fail to complete the cytoplasmatic cell division due to the persistence of chromatin bridges in the midzone. Flow cytometry together with fluorescence in situ hybridization demonstrated an accumulation of binucleated polyploid cells upon serial passaging cells. Restoration of telomere function through hTERT transduction, which lessens the formation of anaphase bridges by recapping the chromosome ends, rescued the polyploid phenotype. Live-cell imaging revealed that these polyploid cells emerged after abortive cytokinesis due to the persistence of anaphase bridges with large intervening chromatin in the cleavage plane. In agreement with a primary role of anaphase bridge intermediates in the polyploidization process, treatment of HMEC-hTERT cells with bleomycin, which produces chromatin bridges through illegimitate repair, resulted in tetraploid binucleated cells. Taken together, we demonstrate that human epithelial cells exhibiting physiological telomere dysfunction engender tetraploid cells through interference of anaphase bridges with the completion of cytokinesis. These observations shed light on the mechanisms operating during the initial stages of human carcinogenesis, as they provide a link between progressive telomere dysfunction and tetraploidy.
Author Summary
Chromosome instability leads to the accumulation of chromosome number and structure aberrations that have been suggested as necessary for neoplastic transformation. Telomeres, specialized DNA–protein complexes localized at the physical ends of linear chromosomes, are crucial for maintaining chromosome stability. Massive chromosomal instability may occur when cells continuously proliferate in the absence of specific telomere elongation mechanisms. Besides telomere dysfunction, it has been suggested that a transient phase of tetraploidization has a causative role in cancer. This study provides a link between dysfunctional telomeres and the generation of tetraploids. Using a human mammary epithelial cell model, we show that diploid cells exhibiting progressive telomere dysfunction, in a p53 proficient background, engender tetraploid cells through cytokinesis failure. Our studies give new insights into the mechanisms that may facilitate the evolution of malignant phenotypes: telomere-dependent chromosome instability would engender tetraploid intermediates that, on division, would promote further cellular genome remodelling, which is needed at the early stages of tumour development in order for cells to become neoplasic.
PMCID: PMC3343085  PMID: 22570622
17.  A Role for Polyploidy in the Tumorigenicity of Pim-1-Expressing Human Prostate and Mammary Epithelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(7):e2572.
Polyploidy is a prominent feature of many human cancers, and it has long been hypothesized that polyploidy may contribute to tumorigenesis by promoting genomic instability. In this study, we investigated whether polyploidy per se induced by a relevant oncogene can promote genomic instability and tumorigenicity in human epithelial cells.
Principal Findings
When the oncogenic serine-threonine kinase Pim-1 is overexpressed in immortalized, non-tumorigenic human prostate and mammary epithelial cells, these cells gradually converted to polyploidy and became tumorigenic. To assess the contribution of polyploidy to tumorigenicity, we obtained sorted, matched populations of diploid and polyploid cells expressing equivalent levels of the Pim-1 protein. Spectral karyotyping revealed evidence of emerging numerical and structural chromosomal abnormalities in polyploid cells, supporting the proposition that polyploidy promotes chromosomal instability. Polyploid cells displayed an intact p53/p21 pathway, indicating that the viability of polyploid cells in this system is not dependent on the inactivation of the p53 signaling pathway. Remarkably, only the sorted polyploid cells were tumorigenic in vitro and in vivo.
Our results support the notion that polyploidy can promote chromosomal instability and the initiation of tumorigenesis in human epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC2440349  PMID: 18596907
18.  Preantral Follicle Growth is Regulated by c-Jun-N-Terminal Kinase (JNK) Pathway 
Reproductive Sciences  2011;18(3):269-276.
c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway has been shown to be essential for cell cycle progression and mitosis. We previously showed that this pathway is activated in mitotic granulosa cells of follicles from transitional to antral stages. In this study, we, therefore, aimed to investigate whether this signaling pathway has any effect on in-vitro growth of murine preantral follicles and granulosa cell cycle control. Two structurally different pharmacologic JNK inhibitors, SP600125 and AS601245, were used in the experiments. First their inhibitory concentrations were determined in granulosa cells by Western blot analysis. Then preantral follicles isolated from immature and adult C57BL/6 mice were cultured in matrigel and standard culture plates for 6 days with these inhibitors. Spontaneously immortalized rat granulosa cells (SIGCs) were first synchronized at G1/S and G2/M stages of cell cycle and then treated with JNK inhibitors. Cell cycle progression was analyzed with Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) assay and flow cytometry analysis. Both inhibitors significantly inhibited phosphorylation of c-Jun in granulosa cells at 25, 50, and 100 μmol/L concentrations. Isolated preantral follicles cultured with these inhibitors exhibited arrested growth in culture in a dose-dependent manner. Cell cycle analyses showed that both inhibitors impair the progression of cell cycle at S phase and G2/M transition of granulosa cells. These results suggest that JNK pathway is essential for in vitro growth of preantral follicle growth and regulates both S phase and G2/M stages of cell cycle in granulosa cells.
PMCID: PMC3343059  PMID: 20959642
culture; preantral follicle; growth; matrigel; JNK; c-Jun; granulosa cell cycle
19.  Combined antiapoptotic and antioxidant approach to acute neuroprotection for stroke in hypertensive rats 
We hypothesized that targeting key points in the ischemic cascade with combined neuroglobin (Ngb) overexpression and c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibition (SP600125) would offer greater neuroprotection than single treatment after in vitro hypoxia/reoxygenation and in a randomized, blinded in vivo experimental stroke study using a clinically relevant rat strain. Male spontaneously hypertensive stroke-prone rats underwent transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (tMCAO) and were divided into the following groups: tMCAO; tMCAO+control GFP-expressing canine adenovirus-2, CAVGFP; tMCAO+Ngb-expressing CAV-2, CAVNgb; tMCAO+SP600125; tMCAO+CAVNgb+SP600125; or sham procedure. Rats were assessed till day 14 for neurologic outcome before infarct determination. In vitro, combined lentivirus-mediated Ngb overexpression+SP600125 significantly reduced oxidative stress and apoptosis compared with single treatment(s) after hypoxia/reoxygenation in B50 cells. In vivo, infarct volume was significantly reduced by CAVNgb, SP600125, and further by CAVNgb+SP600125. The number of Ngb-positive cells in the peri-infarct cortex and striatum was significantly increased 14 days after tMCAO in animals receiving CAVNgb. Neurologic outcome, measured using a 32-point neurologic score, significantly improved with CAVNgb+SP600125 compared with single treatments at 14 days after tMCAO. Combined Ngb overexpression with JNK inhibition reduced hypoxia/reoxygenation-induced oxidative stress and apoptosis in cultured neurons and reduced infarct and improved neurologic outcome more than single therapy after in vivo experimental stroke in hypertensive rats.
PMCID: PMC3734772  PMID: 23632970
antiapoptotic; antioxidant; combined therapy; hypertensive rat; transient focal ischemia
20.  Hirsutanol A, a novel sesquiterpene compound from fungus Chondrostereum sp., induces apoptosis and inhibits tumor growth through mitochondrial-independent ROS production: Hirsutanol A inhibits tumor growth through ROS production 
Hirsutanol A is a novel sesquiterpene compound purified from fungus Chondrostereum sp. in Sarcophyton tortuosum. Our previous studies had demonstrated that hirsutanol A exhibited potent cytotoxic effect on many kinds of cancer cell lines. In the current study, the antitumor activity of hirsutanol A and its molecular mechanisms were investigated.
Hirsutanol A induced growth inhibition and apoptotic cell death of human colon cancer SW620 cells and human breast cancer MDA-MB-231cells were determined using MTT assay and flow cytometry assay, respectively. The effect of hirsutanol A on intrinsic ROS level and change in mitochondrial membrane potential (△ψm) of different cell lines were also measured by flow cytometry assay. The function of JNK was compromised by JNK siRNA or JNK inhibitor SP600125. The expression of cytochrome c, p-JNK, p-c-Jun after treatment with hirsutanol A were detected by Western blot analysis. Finally, the in vivo anti-tumor effect of hirsutanol A was examined in human cancer cell SW620 xenograft model.
The results showed that hirsutanol A significantly induced apoptosis, mitochondrial-independent increase of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) level, change of mitochondrial membrane potential, release of cytochrome c in human cancer cells. Preventing increase of ROS level using the potent antioxidant N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) markedly decreased hirsutanol A-induced apoptosis. In addition, JNK signaling pathway was activated by hirsutanol A through elevating ROS level. Blockade of JNK signaling pathway by JNK specific inhibitor SP600125 enhanced apoptosis and hirsutanol A-induced ROS accumulation. Also, hirsutanol A exhibited antitumor activity in human cancer cell SW620 xenograft model.
These data suggested that hirsutanol A inhibited tumor growth through triggering ROS production and apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC3637523  PMID: 23394457
Hirsutanol A; Apoptosis; JNK; Mitochondria; ROS; Cancer
21.  Modulation of hepatic fibrosis by c-Jun-N-terminal kinase inhibition 
Gastroenterology  2009;138(1):347-359.
Background & Aims
c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) is activated by multiple profibrogenic mediators; JNK activation occurs during toxic, metabolic, and autoimmune liver injury. However, its role in hepatic fibrogenesis is unknown.
JNK phosphorylation was detected by immunoblot analysis and confocal immunofluorescent microscopy in fibrotic livers from mice after bile duct ligation (BDL) or CCl4 administration and in liver samples from patients with chronic hepatitis C and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Fibrogenesis was investigated in mice given the JNK inhibitor SP600125 and in JNK1- and JNK2-deficient mice following BDL or CCl4 administration. Hepatic stellate cell (HSC) activation was determined in primary mouse HSCs incubated with pan-JNK inhibitors SP600125 and VIII.
JNK phosphorylation was strongly increased in livers of mice following BDL or CCl4 administration as well as in human fibrotic livers, occurring predominantly in myofibroblasts. In vitro, pan-JNK inhibitors prevented transforming growth factor (TGF)β-, platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-, and angiotensin II-induced murine HSC activation and decreased PDGF and TGFβ signaling in human HSCs. In vivo, pan-JNK inhibition did not affect liver injury but significantly reduced fibrosis after BDL or CCl4. JNK1-deficient mice had decreased fibrosis after BDL or CCl4 whereas JNK2-deficient mice displayed increased fibrosis after BDL but fibrosis was not changed after CCl4. Moreover, patients with chronic hepatitis C who displayed decreased fibrosis in response to the angiotensin receptor type 1 blocker losartan showed decreased JNK phosphorylation.
JNK is involved in HSC activation and fibrogenesis and represents a potential target for antifibrotic treatment approaches.
PMCID: PMC2988578  PMID: 19782079
22.  Piperlongumine Inhibits Migration of Glioblastoma Cells via Activation of ROS-Dependent p38 and JNK Signaling Pathways 
Piperlongumine (PL) is recently found to kill cancer cells selectively and effectively via targeting reactive oxygen species (ROS) responses. To further explore the therapeutic effects of PL in cancers, we investigated the role and mechanisms of PL in cancer cell migration. PL effectively inhibited the migration of human glioma (LN229 or U87 MG) cells but not normal astrocytes in the scratch-wound culture model. PL did not alter EdU+-cells and cdc2, cdc25c, or cyclin D1 expression in our model. PL increased ROS (measured by DCFH-DA), reduced glutathione, activated p38 and JNK, increased IκBα, and suppressed NFκB in LN229 cells after scratching. All the biological effects of PL in scratched LN229 cells were completely abolished by the antioxidant N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC). Pharmacological administration of specific p38 (SB203580) or JNK (SP600125) inhibitors significantly reduced the inhibitory effects of PL on LN229 cell migration and NFκB activity in scratch-wound and/or transwell models. PL prevented the deformation of migrated LN229 cells while NAC, SB203580, or SP600125 reversed PL-induced morphological changes of migrated cells. These results suggest potential therapeutic effects of PL in the treatment and prevention of highly malignant tumors such as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in the brain by suppressing tumor invasion and metastasis.
PMCID: PMC4055624  PMID: 24967005
23.  JNK1-dependent antimitotic activity of thiazolidin compounds in human non-small-cell lung and colon cancer cells 
We recently identified two thiazolidin compounds, 5-[(4-methylphenyl)methylene]-2-(phenylamino)-4(5H)-thiazolone (MMPT) and 5-(2,4-dihydroxybenzylidene)-2-(phenylimino)-1,3-thiazolidin (DBPT), that inhibit the growth of human non-small-cell lung and colon cancer cells independent of P-glycoprotein and p53 status. Here we further investigated the mechanism by which these thiazolidin compounds mediate their anticancer effects. Treatment of cancer cells with MMPT and DBPT led to a time-dependent accumulation of cells arrested in G2/M phase with modulating the protein expression such as cyclin B1, cdc25C, and phosphorylated histone H3. Moreover, treatment with MMPT and DBPT increased M-phase arrest with abnormal spindle formation. DBPT-mediated G2/M-phase arrest and phosphorylation of cdc25C and histone H3 were abrogated when JNK activation was blocked either by SP600125, a specific JNK inhibitor, or by a dominant-negative JNK1 gene. Moreover, DBPT-mediated microtubule disruption was also blocked by SP600125 treatment. Our results demonstrate that thiazolidin compounds can effectively induce G2/M arrest in cancer cells and that this G2/M arrest requires JNK activation.
PMCID: PMC1351099  PMID: 16179969
cancer therapy; mitotic arrest; microtubule disruption; non-small-cell lung cancer; cell cycle
24.  Inhibition of c-Jun N-Terminal Kinase Attenuates Low Shear Stress–Induced Atherogenesis in Apolipoprotein E–Deficient Mice 
Molecular Medicine  2011;17(9-10):990-999.
Atherosclerosis begins as local inflammation of arterial walls at sites of disturbed flow, such as vessel curvatures and bifurcations with low shear stress. c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) is a major regulator of flow-dependent gene expression in endothelial cells in atherosclerosis. However, little is known about the in vivo role of JNK in low shear stress in atherosclerosis. We aimed to observe the effect of JNK on low shear stress–induced atherogenesis in apolipoprotein E-deficient (ApoE−/−) mice and investigate the potential mechanism in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). We divided 84 male ApoE−/− mice into two groups for treatment with normal saline (NS) (n = 42) and JNK inhibitor SP600125 (JNK-I) (n = 42). Perivascular shear stress modifiers were placed around the right carotid arteries, and plaque formation was studied at low shear stress regions. The left carotid arteries without modifiers represented undisturbed shear stress as a control. The NS group showed atherosclerotic lesions in arterial regions with low shear stress, whereas the JNK-I group showed almost no atherosclerotic lesions. Corresponding to the expression of proatherogenic vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM-1), phospho-JNK (p-JNK) level was higher in low shear stress regions with NS than with JNK-I inhibitor. In HUVECs under low shear stress, siRNA knockdown and SP600125 inhibition of JNK attenuated nuclear factor (NF)-κB activity and VCAM-1 expression. Furthermore, siRNA knockdown of platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule 1 (PECAM-1) (CD31) reduced p-JNK and VCAM-1 levels after low shear stress stimulation. JNK may play a critical role in low shear stress–induced atherogenesis by a PECAM-1–dependent mechanosensory pathway and modulating NF-κB activity and VCAM-1 expression.
PMCID: PMC3188877  PMID: 21629969
25.  c-Jun N-terminal kinase is required for thermotherapy-induced apoptosis in human gastric cancer cells 
AIM: To investigate the role of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) in thermotherapy-induced apoptosis in human gastric cancer SGC-7901 cells.
METHODS: Human gastric cancer SGC-7901 cells were cultured in vitro. Following thermotherapy at 43 °C for 0, 0.5, 1, 2 or 3 h, the cells were cultured for a further 24 h with or without the JNK specific inhibitor, SP600125 for 2 h. Apoptosis was evaluated by immunohistochemistry [terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL)] and flow cytometry (Annexin vs propidium iodide). Cell proliferation was determined by 3-(4,5-Dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide. The production of p-JNK, Bcl-2, Bax and caspase-3 proteins was evaluated by Western blotting. The expression of JNK at mRNA level was determined by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction.
RESULTS: The proliferation of gastric carcinoma SGC-7901 cells was significantly inhibited following thermotherapy, and was 32.7%, 30.6%, 43.8% and 52.9% at 0.5, 1, 2 and 3 h post-thermotherapy, respectively. Flow cytometry analysis revealed an increased population of SGC-790l cells in G0/G1 phase, but a reduced population in S phase following thermotherapy for 1 or 2 h, compared to untreated cells (P < 0.05). The increased number of SGC-790l cells in G0/G1 phase was consistent with induced apoptosis (flow cytometry) following thermotherapy for 0.5, 1, 2 or 3 h, compared to the untreated group (46.5% ± 0.23%, 39.9% ± 0.53%, 56.6% ± 0.35% and 50.4% ± 0.29% vs 7.3% ± 0.10%, P < 0.01), respectively. This was supported by the TUNEL assay (48.2% ± 0.4%, 40.1% ± 0.2%, 61.2% ± 0.29% and 52.0% ± 0.42% vs 12.2% ± 0.22%, P < 0.01) respectively. More importantly, the expression of p-JNK protein and JNK mRNA levels were significantly higher at 0.5 h than at 0 h post-treatment (P < 0.01), and peaked at 2 h. A similar pattern was detected for Bax and caspase-3 proteins. Bcl-2 increased at 0.5 h, peaked at 1 h, and then decreased. Furthermore, the JNK specific inhibitor, SP600125, suppressed p-JNK, Bax and caspase-3 at the protein level in SGC790l cells following thermotherapy, compared to mock-inhibitor treatment, which was in line with the decreased rate of apoptosis. The expression of Bcl-2 was consistent with thermotherapy alone.
CONCLUSION: Thermotherapy induced apoptosis in gastric cancer cells by promoting p-JNK at the mRNA and protein levels, and up-regulated the expression of Bax and caspase-3 proteins. Bcl-2 may play a protective role during thermotherapy. Activation of JNK via the Bax-caspase-3 pathway may be important in thermotherapy-induced apoptosis in gastric cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3544041  PMID: 23326144
Thermotherapy; Gastric cancer; Apoptosis; c-Jun N-terminal kinase; Apoptosis-related protein

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