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Cell Signal. 2008 Feb;20(2):311-22. Epub 2007 Oct 17.

Taxol-induced mitochondrial stress in melanoma cells is mediated by activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and p38 pathways via uncoupling protein 2.

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  • 1Laboratory for Molecular Tumour Therapy, Department of Dermatology, University Hospital of Duesseldorf, Duesseldorf, Germany.


Taxol (paclitaxel) is a new antineoplastic drug that has shown promise in the treatment of different tumor types. However, the molecular mechanisms governing taxol-induced apoptosis are poorly understood. Activation of mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases is induced by a wide variety of external stress signals and may lead to apoptosis. Therefore, we challenged the human melanoma cell lines A375 and BLM with taxol and characterized the molecular mechanisms regulating taxol-induced apoptosis. Taxol resulted in the activation of apoptosis signal regulated kinase (ASK)1, c-jun NH(2)-terminal kinase (JNK), p38(MAPK) and extracellular-regulated kinase (ERK) together with the downregulation of uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2). In addition, reactive oxygen species (ROS) were induced and DNA-binding activity of the transcription factors AP-1, ATF-2 and ELK-1 was enhanced. Ultimately, cytochrome c was released, and caspases-9 and -3 as well as PARP were cleaved. Pretreatment of melanoma cells with the JNK inhibitor (SP600125) or the p38 inhibitor (SB203580) blocked taxol-induced UCP2 downregulation, ROS generation and apoptosis, whereas the ERK inhibitor (PD98059) had no such effect. Our data provide evidence that taxol-induced mitochondrial stress occurs through the activation of both JNK and p38 pathways, and suggest a novel role for UCP2 in the modulation of taxol-induced apoptosis of melanoma cells.

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