Circumvention of cellular defense responses to DNA -directed nucleoside analogues by the protein kinase inhibitor, UCN-01

Zheng (Jane) Shi, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


DNA-directed nucleoside analogues, such as ara-C, fludarabine, and gemcitabine, are antimetabolites effective in the treatment of a variety of cancers. However, resistance to nucleoside analogue-based chemotherapy in treatments is still a major problem in therapy. Therefore, it is essential to develop rationales for optimizing the use of nucleoside analogues in combination with other anticancer drugs or modalities such as radiation. The present study focuses on establishing mechanism-based combination strategy to overcome resistance to nucleoside analogues. I hypothesized that the cytostatic concentrations of nucleoside analogues may cause S-phase arrest by activating an S-phase checkpoint that consists of a series of kinases. This may allow cells to repair damaged DNA over time and spare cytotoxicity. Thus, the ability of cells to enact an S-phase arrest in response to incorporation of potentially lethal amounts of nucleoside analogue may serve as a mechanism of resistance to S-phase-specific agents. As a corollary, the addition of a kinase inhibitor, such as UCN-01, may dysregulate the checkpoint response and abrogate the survival of S-phase-arrested cells by suppression of the survival signaling pathways. Using gemcitabine as a model of S-phase-specific nucleoside analogues in human acute myelogenous leukemia ML-1 cells, I demonstrated that cells arrested in S-phase in response to cytostatic conditions. Proliferation continued after washing the cells into drug-free medium, suggesting S-phase arrest served as a resistance mechanism of cancer cells to spare cytotoxicity of nucleoside analogues. However, nontoxic concentrations of UCN-01 rapidly killed S-phase-arrested cells by apoptosis. Furthermore, the molecular mechanism for UCN-01-induced apoptosis in S-phase-arrested cells was through inhibition of survival pathways associated with these cells. In this regard, suppression of the PI 3-kinase-Akt-Bad survival pathway as well as the NF-κB signaling pathway were associated with induction of apoptosis in S-phase-arrested cells by UCN-01, whereas the Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK pathway appeared not involved. This study has provided the rationales and strategies for optimizing the design of effective combination therapies to overcome resistance to nucleoside analogues. In fact, a clinical trial of the combination of ara-C with UCN-01 to treat relapsed or refractory AML patients has been initiated at U.T.M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Subject Area

Pharmacology|Cellular biology|Oncology

Recommended Citation

Shi, Zheng (Jane), "Circumvention of cellular defense responses to DNA -directed nucleoside analogues by the protein kinase inhibitor, UCN-01" (2001). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3004458.