Differential roles of checkpoint kinase 1, checkpoint kinase 2, and mitogen-activated protein kinase-activated protein kinase 2 in mediating DNA damage-induced cell cycle arrest: implications for cancer therapy

Zhan Xiao, John Xue, Thomas J Sowin, Haiying Zhang
Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 2006, 5 (8): 1935-43
Mammalian cells initiate cell cycle arrest at different phases of the cell cycle in response to various forms of genotoxic stress to allow time for DNA repair, and thus preserving their genomic integrity. The protein kinases checkpoint kinase 1 (Chk1), checkpoint kinase 2 (Chk2), and mitogen-activated protein kinase-activated protein kinase 2 (MK2) have all been shown to be involved in cell cycle checkpoint control. Recently, cell cycle checkpoint abrogation has been proposed as one way to sensitize cancer cells to DNA-damaging agents due to the expected induction of mitotic catastrophe. Due to their overlapping substrate spectra and redundant functions, it is still not clear which kinase is mainly responsible for the cell cycle arrests conferred by clinically relevant chemotherapeutics. Thus, the issue remains about which kinase is the most therapeutically relevant target and, more importantly, whether multiple kinases might need to be targeted to achieve the best efficacy in light of recent studies showing superior efficacy for pan-receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors. To clarify this issue, we investigated the roles of the three kinases in response to different genotoxic stresses through small interfering RNA-mediated specific target knockdowns. Our result showed that only the down-regulation of Chk1, but not of Chk2 or MK2, abrogated camptothecin- or 5-fluorouracil-induced S-phase arrest or doxorubicin-induced G(2)-phase arrest. This was followed by mitotic catastrophe and apoptosis. Moreover, double inhibition of Chk1 and Chk2 failed to achieve better efficacy than Chk1 inhibition alone; surprisingly, inhibition of MK2, in addition to Chk1 suppression, partially reversed the checkpoint abrogation and negated mitotic catastrophe. We further showed that this is due to the fact that in MK2-deficient cells, Cdc25A protein, which is critically required for the mitotic progression following checkpoint abrogation, becomes greatly depleted. In summary, our findings show that Chk1 is the only relevant checkpoint kinase as a cancer drug target and inhibition of other checkpoint kinases in addition to Chk1 would be nonproductive.

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