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Exp Hematol. 2010 Oct;38(10):908-921.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.exphem.2010.06.001. Epub 2010 Jun 9.

Glycogen synthase kinase--3β inhibitors suppress leukemia cell growth.

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Sydney Cord and Marrow Transplant Facility, Centre for Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders, Sydney Children's Hospital, Sydney, Australia.



The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of small molecule inhibitors of glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β) on leukemia cell growth and survival.


Analysis of cytotoxicity and cell proliferation was conducted using the MTS assay, cell-cycle analysis, and division tracking. Apoptosis was investigated by Annexin-V/7-aminoactinomycin D and caspase-3 expression. The effect of GSK-3β inhibitors was also tested in vivo in an animal model of leukemia. Gene expression analysis was performed to identify the genes modulated by GSK-3β inhibition in leukemia cells.


GSK-3β inhibitors suppress cell growth and induce apoptosis in seven leukemia cell lines of diverse origin, four acute myeloid leukemia, one myelodysplastic syndrome, and one acute lymphoblastic leukemia samples. GSK-3β inhibitors are cytotoxic for rapidly dividing clonogenic leukemia blasts, and higher doses of the inhibitors are needed to eliminate primitive leukemia progenitor/stem cells. Slow cell-division rate, low drug uptake, and interaction with bone marrow stroma make leukemia cells more resistant to apoptosis induced by GSK-3β inhibitors. Global gene expression analysis combined with functional approaches identified multiple genes and specific signaling pathways modulated by GSK-3β inhibition. An important role for Bcl2 in the regulation of apoptosis induced by GSK-3β inhibitors was defined by expression analysis and confirmed by using pharmacological inhibitors of the protein. In vivo administration of GSK-3β inhibitors delayed tumor formation in a mouse leukemia model. GSK-3β inhibitors did not affect hematopoietic recovery following irradiation.


Our data support further evaluation of GSK-3β inhibitors as promising novel agents for therapeutic intervention in leukemia and warrant clinical investigation in leukemia patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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