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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Jul 6;96(14):7797-802.

Lovastatin-mediated G1 arrest is through inhibition of the proteasome, independent of hydroxymethyl glutaryl-CoA reductase.

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  • 1Laboratory of Diagnostic Oncology, Division of Molecular Medicine, Wadsworth Center, Albany, NY 12201-0509, USA.


In this paper we present the finding that lovastatin arrests cells by inhibiting the proteasome, which results in the accumulation of p21 and p27, leading to G1 arrest. Lovastatin is an inhibitor of hydroxymethyl glutaryl (HMG)-CoA reductase, the rate-limiting enzyme in cholesterol synthesis. Previously, we reported that lovastatin can be used to arrest cultured cells in the G1 phase of the cell cycle, resulting in the stabilization of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors (CKIs) p21 and p27. In this report we show that this stabilization of p21 and p27 may be the result of a previously unknown function of the pro-drug, beta-lactone ring form of lovastatin to inhibit the proteasome degradation of these CKIs. The lovastatin mixture used in this study is 80% open-ring form and 20% pro-drug, beta-lactone form. We show that while the lovastatin open-ring form and pravastatin (a lovastatin analogue, 100% open ring) inhibit the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme, lovastatin pro-drug inhibits the proteasome but does not inhibit HMG-CoA reductase. In addition, many of the properties of proteasome inhibition by the pro-drug are the same as the specific proteasome inhibitor lactacystin. Lastly, mevalonate (used to rescue cells from lovastatin arrest) unexpectedly abrogates the lactacystin and lovastatin pro-drug inhibition of the proteasome. Mevalonate increases the activity of the proteasome, which results in degradation of the CKIs, allowing lovastatin- and lactacystin-arrested cells to resume cell division. The lovastatin-mediated inhibition of the proteasome suggests a unique mechanism for the chemopreventative effects of this agent seen in human cancer.

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