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Cell Death Dis. 2011 May 12;2:e156. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2011.39.

Blockade of Hsp90 by 17AAG antagonizes MDMX and synergizes with Nutlin to induce p53-mediated apoptosis in solid tumors.

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Graduate program in Molecular and Cellular Biology, Department of Pathology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA.


Strategies to induce p53 activation in wtp53-retaining tumors carry high potential in cancer therapy. Nutlin, a potent highly selective MDM2 inhibitor, induces non-genotoxic p53 activation. Although Nutlin shows promise in promoting cell death in hematopoietic malignancies, a major roadblock is that most solid cancers do not undergo apoptosis but merely reversible growth arrest. p53 inhibition by unopposed MDMX is one major cause for apoptosis resistance to Nutlin. The Hsp90 chaperone is ubiquitously activated in cancer cells and supports oncogenic survival pathways, many of which antagonize p53. The Hsp90 inhibitor 17-allylamino-17-demethoxygeldanamycin (17AAG) is known to induce p53-dependent apoptosis. We show here that in multiple difficult-to-kill solid tumor cells 17AAG modulates several critical components that synergize with Nutlin-activated p53 signaling to convert Nutlin's transient cytostatic response into a cytotoxic killing response in vitro and in xenografts. Combined with Nutlin, 17AAG destabilizes MDMX, reduces MDM2, induces PUMA and inhibits oncogenic survival pathways, such as PI3K/AKT, which counteract p53 signaling at multiple levels. Mechanistically, 17AAG interferes with the repressive MDMX-p53 axis by inducing robust MDMX degradation, thereby markedly increasing p53 transcription compared with Nutlin alone. To our knowledge Nutlin+17AAG represents the first effective pharmacologic knockdown of MDMX. Our study identifies 17AAG as a promising synthetic lethal partner for a more efficient Nutlin-based therapy.

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