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Cancer Res. 2005 May 15;65(10):4273-81.

Nuclear factor-kappaB induced by doxorubicin is deficient in phosphorylation and acetylation and represses nuclear factor-kappaB-dependent transcription in cancer cells.

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Centre for Neuronal Survival, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


The primary goal of chemotherapy is to cause cancer cell death. However, a side effect of many commonly used chemotherapeutic drugs is the activation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB), a potent inducer of antiapoptotic genes, which may blunt the therapeutic efficacy of these compounds. We have assessed the effect of doxorubicin, an anthracycline in widespread clinical use, on NF-kappaB activation and expression of antiapoptotic genes in breast cancer cells. We show that doxorubicin treatment activates NF-kappaB signaling and produces NF-kappaB complexes that are competent for NF-kappaB binding in vitro. Surprisingly, these NF-kappaB complexes suppress, rather than activate, constitutive- and cytokine-induced NF-kappaB-dependent transcription. We show that doxorubicin treatment produces RelA, which is deficient in phosphorylation and acetylation and which blocks NF-kappaB signaling in a histone deacetylase-independent manner, and we show that NF-kappaB activated by doxorubicin does not remain stably bound to kappaB elements in vivo. Together these data show that NF-kappaB signaling induced by doxorubicin reduces expression of NF-kappaB-dependent genes in cancer cells.

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