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Invest New Drugs. 2011 Oct;29(5):921-31. doi: 10.1007/s10637-010-9448-9. Epub 2010 Jun 4.

Cell death induction in resting lymphocytes by pan-Cdk inhibitor, but not by Cdk4/6 selective inhibitor.

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  • 1Department of Oncology, Merck Research Laboratories, Banyu Tsukuba Research Institute, 3 Okubo, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 300-2611, Japan.


Immunosuppression is one of the common side effects of many anti-tumor agents targeting proliferating cells. We previously reported the development of a new class of pan-cyclin-dependent kinase (Cdk) inhibitor compounds that induce immunosuppression in rodents. Here, we demonstrated that a pan-Cdk inhibitor, Compound 1 very rapidly reduced white blood cells in mice, only 8 h after administration. Compound 1 induced death of peripheral blood cells or purified resting (non-stimulated) lymphocytes ex vivo. Cell death was induced very rapidly, after 4 h of incubation, suggesting that acute immunosuppression observed in rodents might be, at least in part, due to direct cytotoxic effects of Compound 1 on resting lymphocytes. While cell cycle-related Cdks were not activated, the carboxyl terminal domain (CTD) of the largest subunit of RNA polymerase II was phosphorylated, indicating activation of Cdk7 or Cdk9, which phosphorylates this domain, in resting lymphocytes. Indeed, the pan-Cdk inhibitor suppressed CTD phosphorylation in resting cells at the dose required for cell death induction. Inhibition of Cdk7 or Cdk9 by Compound 1 was also confirmed by suppression of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB)-dependent transcription activity in the human cancer cell line U2OS. Interestingly, a Cdk4/6 inhibitor with selectivity against Cdk7 and Cdk9 did not induce cell death in resting lymphocytes. These results suggest that CTD phosphorylation possibly by Cdk7 or Cdk9 might be important for survival of resting lymphocytes and that Cdk inhibitors without inhibitory activity on these kinases might be an attractive agent for cancer chemotherapy.

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