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Mol Cell Biol. 2000 Aug;20(16):6105-13.

RhoB alteration is necessary for apoptotic and antineoplastic responses to farnesyltransferase inhibitors.

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The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, Glenolden, Pennsylvania, USA.


Farnesyltransferase inhibitors (FTIs) are in clinical trials, but how they selectively inhibit malignant cell growth remains uncertain. One important player in this process appears to be RhoB, an endosomal Rho protein that regulates receptor trafficking. FTI treatment elicits a gain of the geranylgeranylated RhoB isoform (RhoB-GG) that occurs due to modification of RhoB by geranylgeranyltransferase I in drug-treated cells. Notably, this event is sufficient to mediate antineoplastic effects in murine models and human carcinoma cells. To further assess this gain-of-function mechanism and determine whether RhoB-GG has a necessary role in drug action, we examined the FTI response of murine fibroblasts that cannot express RhoB-GG due to homozygous deletion of the rhoB gene. Nullizygous (-/-) cells were susceptible to cotransformation by adenovirus E1A plus activated H-Ras but defective in their FTI response, despite complete inhibition of H-Ras prenylation. Actin cytoskeletal and phenotypic events were disrupted in -/- cells, implicating RhoB-GG in these effects. Interestingly, -/- cells were resistant to FTI-induced growth inhibition under anchorage-dependent but not anchorage-independent conditions, indicating that, while RhoB-GG is sufficient, it is not necessary for growth inhibition under all conditions. In contrast, -/- cells were resistant to FTI-induced apoptosis in vitro and in vivo. Significantly, the apoptotic defect of -/- cells compromised the antitumor efficacy of FTI in xenograft assays. This study offers genetic proof of the hypothesis that RhoB-GG is a crucial mediator of the antineoplastic effects of FTIs.

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