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Mol Cancer Res. 2006 Jul;4(7):457-69.

Curcumin affects components of the chromosomal passenger complex and induces mitotic catastrophe in apoptosis-resistant Bcr-Abl-expressing cells.

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Laboratory of Molecular Bases of Aging, Department of Cellular Biochemistry, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, Warsaw, Poland.


The Bcr-Abl oncoprotein plays a major role in the development and progression of chronic myeloid leukemia and is a determinant of chemotherapy resistance occurring during the blast crisis phase of the disease. The aim of this article was to investigate the possibility of combating the resistance to apoptosis caused by Bcr-Abl by inducing an alternative cell death process. As a model of chronic myeloid leukemia, we employed Bcr-Abl-transfected mouse progenitor 32D cells with low and high Bcr-Abl expression levels corresponding to drug-sensitive and drug-resistant cells, respectively. The drug curcumin (diferuloylmethane), a known potent inducer of cell death in many cancer cells, was investigated for efficacy with Bcr-Abl-expressing cells. Curcumin strongly inhibited cell proliferation and affected cell viability by inducing apoptotic symptoms in all tested cells; however, apoptosis was a relatively late event. G(2)-M cell cycle arrest, together with increased mitotic index and cellular and nuclear morphology resembling those described for mitotic catastrophe, was observed and preceded caspase-3 activation and DNA fragmentation. Mitosis-arrested cells displayed abnormal chromatin organization, multipolar chromosome segregation, aberrant cytokinesis, and multinucleated cells-morphologic changes typical of mitotic catastrophe. We found that the mitotic cell death symptoms correlated with attenuated expression of survivin, a member of the chromosomal passenger complex, and mislocalization of Aurora B, the partner of survivin in the chromosomal passenger complex. Inhibition of survivin expression with small interfering RNA exhibited similar mitotic disturbances, thus implicating survivin as a major, albeit not the only, target for curcumin action. This study shows that curcumin can overcome the broad resistance to cell death caused by expression of Bcr-Abl and suggests that curcumin may be a promising agent for new combination regimens for drug-resistant chronic myeloid leukemia.

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