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Mol Pharmacol. 2011 Jul;80(1):40-8. doi: 10.1124/mol.110.070284. Epub 2011 Apr 4.

Cyclopentenyl cytosine induces senescence in breast cancer cells through the nucleolar stress response and activation of p53.

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Department of Medicine, Divisions of Oncology and Hematology, and the Stanford Cancer Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305-5458, USA.


The induction of senescence has emerged as a potentially important contributor to the effects of chemotherapeutic agents against tumors. We have demonstrated that depletion of CTP induced by cyclopentenyl cytosine (CPEC; NSC 375575), a specific inhibitor of the enzyme CTP synthetase, induces irreversible growth arrest and senescence characterized by altered morphology and expression of senescence-associated β-galactosidase activity in MCF-7 breast cancer cells expressing wild-type p53. In contrast, differentiation in the absence of senescence resulted from CPEC treatment in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells that express a mutated p53. Both senescence of MCF-7 cells and differentiation of MDA-MB-231 cells were prevented by repletion of CTP through the cytidine salvage pathway. Senescence in MCF-7 cells was associated with a G(2)- and S-phase arrest, whereas differentiation in MDA-MB-231 cells was associated with arrest in G(1) phase at 5 days. Mechanistic studies revealed that CTP depletion induced a rapid translocation of nucleolar proteins, including nucleostemin and nucleolin into the nucleoplasm. This nucleolar stress response resulted in a sustained elevation of p53 and the p53 target genes, p21 and Mdm2, in cells with wild-type p53. Furthermore, short interfering RNA-induced knockdown of p53 in MCF-7 cells treated with CPEC prevented cellular senescence and increased apoptotic cell death. We conclude that CTP depletion and the resulting nucleolar stress response results in a senescence-like growth arrest through activation of p53, whereas cells with mutated p53 undergo differentiation or apoptotic cell death.

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