UCN-01 (7-hydroxystauorsporine) blocks PMA-induced maturation and reciprocally promotes apoptosis in human myelomonocytic leukemia cells (U937).

Mohamed Rahmani, Steven Grant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Interactions between the protein kinase inhibitor UCN-01 and the PKC activator phorbol ester (PMA) have been examined in relation to differentiation and apoptosis in human myelomonocytic leukemia cells (U937). Coadministratation of 100 nM UCN-01 with a low concentration of PMA e.g., 2 nM, inhibited rather than promoted differentiation, reflected by reduced surface expression of the monocytic maturation marker CD11b and diminished cell adherence. Instead, administration of UCN-01 with PMA led to a marked increase in mitochondrial injury (e.g, cytochrome c release), activation of caspases-3 and -8, Bid cleavage, PARP degradation, and apoptosis, accompanied by a substantial reduction in viability and clonogenic survival. These phenomena were associated with multiple perturbations in cell cycle regulatory events, including abrogation of p21(CIP1) induction, p27(KIP1) cleavage, down-regulation of cyclin D1, dephosphorylation (activation) of p34cdc2, and degradation of underphosphorylated pRb. Potentiation of PMA-mediated apoptosis was partially mimicked by caffeine suggesting the involvement of Chk1 in the potentiation of apoptosis. Induction of cell death by UCN-01 and PMA was increased in cells stably expressing a p21(CIP1) mRNA antisense construct, suggesting that p21(CIP1) expression may protect cells from the lethal effects of this drug combination. Finally, ectopic expression of a Bcl-2 but not dominant-negative caspase-8 protected cells from UCN-01/PMA-mediated apoptosis, suggesting the lethal effects of this combination primarily involves the mitochondrial rather than the TNF-related extrinsic apoptotic pathway. Taken together, these findings suggest that UCN-01 disrupts a variety of cell cycle events in leukemic cells exposed to the maturation-inducing agent PMA, causing cells to engage an apoptotic rather than a differentiation-related program.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)279-287
Number of pages9
JournalCell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002


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