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Cancer Res. 2005 Apr 15;65(8):3356-63.

Magnetic resonance spectroscopy monitoring of mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling inhibition.

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  • 1Cancer Research UK Clinical Magnetic Resonance Research Group, Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, Downs Road, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5PT, UK.


Several mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling inhibitors are currently undergoing clinical trial as part of novel mechanism-based anticancer treatment strategies. This study was aimed at detecting biomarkers of MAPK signaling inhibition in human breast and colon carcinoma cells using magnetic resonance spectroscopy. We investigated the effect of the prototype MAPK kinase inhibitor U0126 on the (31)P-MR spectra of MDA-MB-231, MCF-7 and Hs578T breast, and HCT116 colon carcinoma cells. Treatment of MDA-MB-231 cells with 50 micromol/L U0126 for 2, 4, 8, 16, 24, 32, and 40 hours caused inhibition of extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK1/2) phosphorylation from 2 hours onwards. (31)P-MR spectra of extracted cells indicated that this was associated with a significant drop in phosphocholine levels to 78 +/- 8% at 8 hours, 74 +/- 8% at 16 hours, 66 +/- 7% at 24 hours, 71 +/- 10% at 32 hours, and 65 +/- 10% at 40 hours post-treatment. In contrast, the lower concentration of 10 micromol/L U0126 for 40 hours had no significant effect on either P-ERK1/ 2 or phosphocholine levels in MDA-MB-231 cells. Depletion of P-ERK1/2 in MCF-7 and Hs578T cells with 50 micromol/L U0126 also produced a drop in phosphocholine levels to 51 +/- 17% at 40 hours and 23 +/- 12% at 48 hours, respectively. Similarly, in HCT116 cells, inhibition with 30 micromol/L U0126 caused depletion of P-ERK1/2 and a decrease in phosphocholine levels to 80 +/- 9% at 16 hours and 61 +/- 4% at 24 hours post-treatment. The reduction in phosphocholine in MDA-MB-231 and HCT116 cells correlated positively with the drop in P-ERK1/2 levels. Our results show that MAPK signaling inhibition with U0126 is associated with a time-dependent decrease in cellular phosphocholine levels. Thus, phosphocholine has potential as a noninvasive pharmacodynamic marker for monitoring MAPK signaling blockade.

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