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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Blocking the Raf/MEK/ ERK pathway sensitizes acute myelogenous leukemia cells to lovastatin-induced apoptosis.

The statin family of drugs are well-established inhibitors of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase and are used clinically in the control of hypercholesterolemia. Recent evidence, from ourselves and others, shows that statins can also trigger tumor-specific apoptosis by blocking protein geranylgeranylation. We and others have proposed that statins disrupt localization and function of geranylgeranylated proteins responsible for activating signal transduction pathways essential for the growth and/or survival of transformed cells. To explore this further, we have investigated whether the mitogen-activated protein kinase ( MAPK) signaling cascades play a role in regulating statin-induced apoptosis. Cells derived from acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) are used as our model system. We show that p38 and c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase/stress- activated kinase MAPK pathways are not altered during lovastatin-induced apoptosis. By contrast, exposure of primary and established AML cells to statins results in significant disruption of basal extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2 phosphorylation. Addition of geranylgeranyl PPi reverses statin- induced loss of ERK1/2 phosphorylation and apoptosis. By establishing and evaluating the inducible Raf-1:ER system in AML cells, we show that constitutive activation of the Raf/MAPK kinase (MEK)/ERK pathway significantly represses but does not completely block lovastatin-induced apoptosis. Our results strongly suggest statins trigger apoptosis by regulating several signaling pathways, including the Raf/MEK/ ERK pathway. Indeed, down-regulation of the Raf/MEK/ ERK pathway potentiates statin- induced apoptosis because exposure to the MEK1 inhibitor PD98059 sensitizes AML cells to low, physiologically achievable concentrations of lovastatin. Our study suggests that lovastatin, alone or in combination with a MEK1 inhibitor, may represent a new and immediately available therapeutic approach to combat tumors with activated ERK1/2, such as AML.[1]


  1. Blocking the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway sensitizes acute myelogenous leukemia cells to lovastatin-induced apoptosis. Wu, J., Wong, W.W., Khosravi, F., Minden, M.D., Penn, L.Z. Cancer Res. (2004) [Pubmed]
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