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Cancer Gene Ther. 2008 Sep;15(9):576-90. doi: 10.1038/cgt.2008.28. Epub 2008 May 16.

A dual role of p21waf1/cip1 gene in apoptosis of HEp-2 treated with cisplatin or methotrexate.

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  • 1Laboratory of systems biomedicine, Division of Molecular Medicine, Rudjer Boskovic Institute, Zagreb, Croatia.


We investigated the effects of p21(waf1/cip1) gene overexpression in human laryngeal squamous carcinoma cells HEp-2 lacking p53 protein expression on apoptosis induction upon the treatment with two commonly used chemotherapeutic agents, cisplatin and methotrexate. For that purpose, we employed cDNA arrays and qPCR to monitor gene expression upon treatment with AdCMV-p21 alone or in combination with the chemotherapeutic compounds. We found that p21(waf1/cip1) gene overexpression provoked apoptosis of HEp-2 through the induction of the TNFRSF9 gene and activation of caspase 7. In addition, we have proved that p21(waf1/cip1) can assume a dual role in apoptosis in the same cell system depending on the chemotherapeutic agent: its overexpression enhances apoptosis in cisplatin-treated cells and attenuates apoptotic signals in methotrexate-treated cells. The observed dual role of p21(waf1/cip1) was in direct correlation with the modulation of caspases 3 and 7 activation and changes in the expression of GADD45a gene. The results presented herein encourage future use of targeted p21(waf1/cip1) gene therapy in cancer treatment in a well-defined therapeutic and genetic context.

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