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Apoptosis. 2011 Jan;16(1):35-44. doi: 10.1007/s10495-010-0538-0.

Mdm2 inhibition induces apoptosis in p53 deficient human colon cancer cells by activating p73- and E2F1-mediated expression of PUMA and Siva-1.

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Department of Physiology, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, 894 Union Ave., Memphis, TN 38163, USA.


Camptothecin (CPT) and Nutlin-3 caused apoptosis by increasing p53 protein and its activation in intestinal epithelial cells (IEC-6). We studied the effectiveness of these inducers on apoptosis in human colon cancer cells (Caco2) lacking p53 expression. CPT failed to activate caspase-3 and cause apoptosis in these cells. The absence of p53 expression, higher basal Bcl-xL and lower Bax proteins prevented CPT-induced apoptosis. However, the Mdm2 antagonist Nutlin-3 induced apoptosis in a dose dependent manner by activating caspases-9 and -3. Nutlin-3 prevented the activation of AKT via PTEN-mediated inhibition of the PI3K pathway. Nutlin-3 increased the phosphorylation of retinoblastoma protein causing E2F1 release leading to induction of Siva-1. Nutlin-3-mediated degradation of Mdm2 caused the accumulation of p73, which induced the expression of p53 up-regulated modulator of apoptosis (PUMA). E2F1 and p73 knockdown decreased the expression of Siva and PUMA, respectively and abolished Nutlin-3-induced caspase-3 activation. Cycloheximide (CHX) inhibited Nutlin-3-induced Siva, Noxa, and PUMA expression and inhibited apoptosis in IEC-6 and Caco2 cells. These results indicate that translation of mRNAs induced by Nutlin-3 is critical for apoptosis. In summary, apoptosis in Caco2 cells lacking functional p53 occurred following the disruption of Mdm2 binding with p73 and Rb leading to the expression of pro-apoptotic proteins, PUMA, Noxa, and Siva-1.

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