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1.  Cyclin-dependent kinases 4 and 6 control tumor progression and direct glucose oxidation in the pentose cycle 
Cyclin-dependent kinases CDK4 and CDK6 are essential for the control of the cell cycle through the G1 phase. Aberrant expression of CDK4 and CDK6 is a hallmark of cancer, which would suggest that CDK4 and CDK6 are attractive targets for cancer therapy. Herein, we report that calcein AM (the calcein acetoxymethyl-ester) is a potent specific inhibitor of CDK4 and CDK6 in HCT116 human colon adenocarcinoma cells, inhibiting retinoblastoma protein (pRb) phosphorylation and inducing cell cycle arrest in the G1 phase. The metabolic effects of calcein AM on HCT116 cells were also evaluated and the flux between the oxidative and non-oxidative branches of the pentose phosphate pathway was significantly altered. To elucidate whether these metabolic changes were due to the inhibition of CDK4 and CDK6, we also characterized the metabolic profile of a CDK4, CDK6 and CDK2 triple knockout of mouse embryonic fibroblasts. The results show that the metabolic profile associated with the depletion of CDK4, CDK6 and CDK2 coincides with the metabolic changes induced by calcein AM on HCT116 cells, thus confirming that the inhibition of CDK4 and CDK6 disrupts the balance between the oxidative and non-oxidative branches of the pentose phosphate pathway. Taken together, these results indicate that low doses of calcein can halt cell division and kill tumor cells. Thus, selective inhibition of CDK4 and CDK6 may be of greater pharmacological interest, since inhibitors of these kinases affect both cell cycle progression and the robust metabolic profile of tumors.
PMCID: PMC3361763  PMID: 22661920
Cyclin-dependent kinases; CDK-inhibitor; Tracer-based metabolomics; Pentose phosphate pathway; Phase-plane analysis
2.  PCAF regulates the stability of the transcriptional regulator and cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27Kip1 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(14):6520-6533.
P27Kip1 (p27) is a member of the Cip/Kip family of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors. Recently, a new function of p27 as transcriptional regulator has been reported. It has been shown that p27 regulates the expression of target genes mostly involved in splicing, cell cycle, respiration and translation. We report here that p27 directly binds to the transcriptional coactivator PCAF by a region including amino acids 91–120. PCAF associates with p27 through its catalytic domain and acetylates p27 at lysine 100. Our data showed that overexpression of PCAF induces the degradation of p27 whereas in contrast, the knockdown of PCAF stabilizes the protein. A p27 mutant in which K100 was substituted by arginine (p27-K100R) cannot be acetylated by PCAF and has a half-life much higher than that of p27WT. Moreover, p27-K100R remains stable along cell-cycle progression. Ubiquitylation assays and the use of proteasome inhibitors indicate that PCAF induces p27 degradation via proteasome. We also observed that knockdown of skp2 did not affect the PCAF induced degradation of p27. In conclusion, our data suggest that the p27 acetylation by PCAF regulates its stability.
PMCID: PMC3413142  PMID: 22547391
3.  A clathrin-dependent pathway leads to KRas signaling on late endosomes en route to lysosomes 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2009;184(6):863-879.
Ras proteins are small guanosine triphosphatases involved in the regulation of important cellular functions such as proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. Understanding the intracellular trafficking of Ras proteins is crucial to identify novel Ras signaling platforms. In this study, we report that epidermal growth factor triggers Kirsten Ras (KRas) translocation onto endosomal membranes (independently of calmodulin and protein kinase C phosphorylation) through a clathrin-dependent pathway. From early endosomes, KRas but not Harvey Ras or neuroblastoma Ras is sorted and transported to late endosomes (LEs) and lysosomes. Using yellow fluorescent protein–Raf1 and the Raichu-KRas probe, we identified for the first time in vivo–active KRas on Rab7 LEs, eliciting a signal output through Raf1. On these LEs, we also identified the p14–MP1 scaffolding complex and activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2. Abrogation of lysosomal function leads to a sustained late endosomal mitogen-activated protein kinase signal output. Altogether, this study reveals novel aspects about KRas intracellular trafficking and signaling, shedding new light on the mechanisms controlling Ras regulation in the cell.
PMCID: PMC2699148  PMID: 19289794
4.  The transcriptional co-activator PCAF regulates cdk2 activity 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(21):7072-7084.
Cyclin dependent kinases (cdks) regulate cell cycle progression and transcription. We report here that the transcriptional co-activator PCAF directly interacts with cdk2. This interaction is mainly produced during S and G2/M phases of the cell cycle. As a consequence of this association, PCAF inhibits the activity of cyclin/cdk2 complexes. This effect is specific for cdk2 because PCAF does not inhibit either cyclin D3/cdk6 or cyclin B/cdk1 activities. The inhibition is neither competitive with ATP, nor with the substrate histone H1 suggesting that somehow PCAF disturbs cyclin/cdk2 complexes. We also demonstrate that overexpression of PCAF in the cells inhibits cdk2 activity and arrests cell cycle progression at S and G2/M. This blockade is dependent on cdk2 because it is rescued by the simultaneous overexpression of this kinase. Moreover, we also observed that PCAF acetylates cdk2 at lysine 33. As this lysine is essential for the interaction with ATP, acetylation of this residue inhibits cdk2 activity. Thus, we report here that PCAF inhibits cyclin/cdk2 activity by two different mechanisms: (i) by somehow affecting cyclin/cdk2 interaction and (ii) by acetylating K33 at the catalytic pocket of cdk2. These findings identify a previously unknown mechanism that regulates cdk2 activity.
PMCID: PMC2790897  PMID: 19773423
5.  Binding of Calmodulin to the Carboxy-Terminal Region of p21 Induces Nuclear Accumulation via Inhibition of Protein Kinase C-Mediated Phosphorylation of Ser153 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(16):7364-7374.
Intracellular localization plays an important role in the functional regulation of the cell cycle inhibitor p21. We have previously shown that calmodulin binds to p21 and that calmodulin is essential for the nuclear accumulation of p21. Here, we analyze the mechanism of this regulation. We show that calmodulin inhibits in vitro phosphorylation of p21 by protein kinase C (PKC) and that this inhibition is dependent upon calmodulin binding to p21. Two-dimensional electrophoresis analysis of cells expressing the p21 wild type or p21S153A, a nonphosphorylatable mutant of p21 at position 153, indicates that Ser153 of p21 is a phosphorylable residue in vivo. Furthermore, Western blot analysis using phospho-Ser153-specific antibodies indicates that Ser153 phosphorylation in vivo is induced when PKC is activated and calmodulin is inhibited. The mutation of Ser153 to aspartate, a pseudophosphorylated residue, inhibits the nuclear accumulation of p21. Finally, whereas wild-type p21 translocates to the cytoplasm after PKC activation in the presence of calmodulin inhibitors, p21 carrying a nonphosphorylatable residue at position 153 remains in the nucleus. We propose that calmodulin binding to p21 prevents its phosphorylation by PKC at Ser153 and consequently allows its nuclear localization. When phosphorylated at Ser153, p21 is located at the cytoplasm and disrupts stress fibers.
PMCID: PMC1190259  PMID: 16055744
6.  Calmodulin Binds to K-Ras, but Not to H- or N-Ras, and Modulates Its Downstream Signaling 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2001;21(21):7345-7354.
Activation of Ras induces a variety of cellular responses depending on the specific effector activated and the intensity and amplitude of this activation. We have previously shown that calmodulin is an essential molecule in the down-regulation of the Ras/Raf/MEK/extracellularly regulated kinase (ERK) pathway in cultured fibroblasts and that this is due at least in part to an inhibitory effect of calmodulin on Ras activation. Here we show that inhibition of calmodulin synergizes with diverse stimuli (epidermal growth factor, platelet-derived growth factor, bombesin, or fetal bovine serum) to induce ERK activation. Moreover, even in the absence of any added stimuli, activation of Ras by calmodulin inhibition was observed. To identify the calmodulin-binding protein involved in this process, calmodulin affinity chromatography was performed. We show that Ras and Raf from cellular lysates were able to bind to calmodulin. Furthermore, Ras binding to calmodulin was favored in lysates with large amounts of GTP-bound Ras, and it was Raf independent. Interestingly, only one of the Ras isoforms, K-RasB, was able to bind to calmodulin. Furthermore, calmodulin inhibition preferentially activated K-Ras. Interaction between calmodulin and K-RasB is direct and is inhibited by the calmodulin kinase II calmodulin-binding domain. Thus, GTP-bound K-RasB is a calmodulin-binding protein, and we suggest that this binding may be a key element in the modulation of Ras signaling.
PMCID: PMC99908  PMID: 11585916

Results 1-6 (6)