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Cell Cycle. 2003 Sep-Oct;2(5):488-93.

Targeting Survivin expression induces cell proliferation defect and subsequent cell death involving mitochondrial pathway in myeloid leukemic cells.

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  • 1Section of Molecular Hematology and Therapy, Department of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Survivin, a member of inhibitor of apoptosis family of proteins, plays important roles in both cell proliferation and cell death. We previously observed that Survivin is overexpressed in leukemic cell lines and blasts from patients with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). To understand the roles of Survivin in AML and search for new approaches to the treatment of AML, we inhibited Survivin expression in HL-60 cells with a Survivin anti-sense oligonucleotide (sur-AS-ODN) (ISIS 23722). This blocked significant numbers of HL-60 cells in G2/M phase, and halted cell proliferation at 24 hrs and progressing over time. There was only a slight increase in the number of apoptotic cells at 24 hrs compared with cells treated with nonsense oligonucleotide (NS-ODN). At 48 hrs, however, there were significant increases in sub-G1 phase and annexin V+ cells, suggesting that cell division defects caused cell death. This was supported by the finding that a reduction in the Survivin protein by sur-AS-ODN in cells under serum-free medium did not induce G2/M block and cell death compared to cells treated with NS-ODN. The formation of polyploid cells was observed 48 hrs after sur-AS-ODN treatment, as was the activation of caspase 3, which suggested that apoptotic cell death had occurred. The mitochondrial release of cytochrome C and Smac and the nuclear translocation of the apoptosis-inducing factor were also detected. Our results suggest that Survivin is essential for cell cycle progression in leukemic cells. Reduced Survivin expression causes a cell-cycle defect that leads to cell death through a mitochondrial pathway. This finding has potential utility for therapy of patients with AML.

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