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Carcinogenesis. 2007 Oct;28(10):2207-17. Epub 2007 May 17.

Aspirin blocks proliferation in colon cells by inducing a G1 arrest and apoptosis through activation of the checkpoint kinase ATM.

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Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Medical University of Vienna, KIM4, Währinger Gürtel 18, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the most common gastrointestinal malignancy. Most of the clinical data on CRC prevention have come from the use of aspirin. Besides inhibition of cyclooxygenases, aspirin has a diversity of molecular effects that counteract colon carcinogenesis. Aspirin restrains cell proliferation by inducing a G1 arrest in colorectal cells. To determine which cell cycle checkpoint pathways are involved in this response, colorectal cell lines wild-type or defective for p53 and p21Waf1/Cip1 were treated with aspirin or the anti-proliferative drug sulindac sulfide, then assayed for proliferative activity, for cell cycle progression and apoptosis, for the activation and phosphorylation of checkpoint components and for the transcriptional up-regulation of p21Waf1/Cip1 and Bax. Aspirin and sulindac sulfide induced a G1 arrest within 48 h. While all cell lines responded in a comparable way to sulindac sulfide, the aspirin-induced G1 arrest was dependent on p21Waf1/Cip1--as cells lacking the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor failed to show this arrest--and on ataxia-telangiectasia-mutated kinase (ATM)--as the inhibitor caffeine abrogated the checkpoint. Moreover, aspirin induced cell death mainly in cells expressing p53. Aspirin induced the phosphorylation of p53 at residue Ser15 within 8 h in a caffeine-dependent manner, and also caused the activation of checkpoint kinase 2 and the cleavage of caspase 7. Our results suggest that aspirin induces a G1 arrest and apoptosis by activating p53 and p21Waf1/Cip1 in an ATM-dependent way. By activating these checkpoint pathways, aspirin may restrain uncontrolled proliferation of colorectal cells, enhance their response to stresses such as DNA damage and promote entry of abnormal cells into apoptosis.

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