Send to

Choose Destination
Leukemia. 2009 Oct;23(10):1744-54. doi: 10.1038/leu.2009.80. Epub 2009 Apr 30.

MEK inhibitors potentiate dexamethasone lethality in acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells through the pro-apoptotic molecule BIM.

Author information

Department of Internal Medicine, Massey Cancer Center, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23298, USA.


Glucocorticoids (GCs) are common components of many chemotherapeutic regimens for lymphoid malignancies. GC-induced apoptosis involves an intrinsic mitochondria-dependent pathway. We and others have shown that BIM (BCL-2 interacting mediator of cell death), a BH3-only pro-apoptotic protein, is up-regulated by dexamethasone (Dex) treatment in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cells and plays an essential role in Dex-induced apoptosis. Furthermore, BIM is inactivated by extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-mediated phosphorylation. We therefore hypothesized co-treatment with Dex and MEK/ERK inhibitors would promote apoptosis in ALL cells through BIM up-regulation and activation. We show here that MEK inhibitors (PD184352 and PD98059) synergistically enhance Dex lethality in a variety of ALL cells and in two primary ALL specimens. Co-treatment with Dex and PD184352 results in BIM accumulation, pro-apoptotic BAX/BAK activation, and cytochrome c release from mitochondria. Down-regulation of BIM by short-hairpin RNA (shRNA) in ALL cells suppressed BAX/BAK activation, cytochrome c release, and cell death by Dex/PD184352 co-treatment. BIM accumulated by this treatment sequesters anti-apoptotic BCL-XLMCL-1, resulting in the release of BAK from these anti-apoptotic molecules. This study provides a rational foundation for future attempts to improve the activity of GCs with clinically relevant pharmacologic MEK inhibitors in the treatment of ALL and possibly other hematologic malignancies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Publication types, MeSH terms, Substances, Grant support

Publication types

MeSH terms


Grant support

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center