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J Biol Chem. 2004 Sep 17;279(38):40209-19. Epub 2004 Jun 21.

Tobacco-specific nitrosamine 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone promotes functional cooperation of Bcl2 and c-Myc through phosphorylation in regulating cell survival and proliferation.

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  • 1University of Florida Shands Cancer Center, Department of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32610-0232, USA.


Nitrosamine 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) is formed by nitrosation of nicotine and has been identified as the most potent carcinogen contained in cigarette smoke. NNK significantly contributes to smoking-related lung cancer, but the molecular mechanism remains enigmatic. Bcl2 and c-Myc are two major oncogenic proteins that cooperatively promote tumor development. We report here that NNK simultaneously stimulates Bcl2 phosphorylation exclusively at Ser(70) and c-Myc at Thr(58) and Ser(62) through activation of both ERK1/2 and PKCalpha, which is required for NNK-induced survival and proliferation of human lung cancer cells. Treatment of cells with staurosporine or PD98059 blocks both Bcl2 and c-Myc phosphorylation and results in suppression of NNK-induced proliferation. Specific depletion of c-Myc expression by RNA interference retards G(1)/S cell cycle transition and blocks NNK-induced cell proliferation. Phosphorylation of Bcl2 at Ser(70) promotes a direct interaction between Bcl2 and c-Myc in the nucleus and on the outer mitochondrial membrane that significantly enhances the half-life of the c-Myc protein. Thus, NNK-induced functional cooperation of Bcl2 and c-Myc in promoting cell survival and proliferation may occur in a novel mechanism involving their phosphorylation, which may lead to development of human lung cancer and/or chemoresistance.

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