The c-myc gene regulates the polyamine pathway in DMSO-induced apoptosis

O Trubiani, C Pieri, M Rapino, R Di Primio
Cell Proliferation 1999, 32 (2): 119-29
It is accepted that apoptosis is a gene-controlled process of cellular self-destruction. It occurs during physiological regulation and in pathological situations in the life of a cell. In the immune system, several different intracellular and extracellular factors have been associated with the induction of apoptosis, and the final responses depend on the cell system and the acquired signals. In lymphoid cells, dexamethasone-induced apoptosis is associated with c-myc downregulation in cells that remain in G0-G1 until the point of death. Ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), a key enzyme involved in polyamine biosynthesis, is regulated by c-myc, which is a transcriptional activator implicated not only in the control of cell proliferation and differentiation but also in programmed cell death. As dimethylsulphoxide (DMSO) induces apoptosis in the RPMI-8402 human pre-T cell line, the present study analysed the involvement of the c-myc proto-oncogene and polyamine pathway as mediators of apoptosis. Cell growth, programmed cell death, c-myc expression, ODC activity and intracellular polyamine content were detected after DMSO and difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) treatment. DMSO-treated cells exhibit a decrease in ODC activity and polyamine levels associated with cell growth arrest and programmed cell death induction. The expression of c-myc proto-oncogene, as its mRNA or protein, is specifically down-regulated. DFMO, a well defined polyamine biosynthesis inhibitor, completely blocks ODC activity, resulting in growth inhibition but not apoptosis. Moreover, in these samples no evidence of changes of c-myc expression were found. The results obtained suggest that, in RPMI-8402 cells, DMSO provokes a c-myc-dependent decrease of ODC activity followed by a depletion of intracellular polyamine levels, associated with programmed cell death and cell growth arrest.

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