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J Natl Cancer Inst. 2012 May 16;104(10):749-63. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djs210. Epub 2012 Apr 24.

Glycogen synthase kinase-3β, NF-κB signaling, and tumorigenesis of human osteosarcoma.

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State Key Laboratory of Oncology in South China, Sun Yat-Sen University Cancer Center, Guangzhou 510060, China.



Glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β), a serine/threonine protein kinase, may function as a tumor suppressor or an oncogene, depending on the tumor type. We sought to determine the biological function of GSK-3β in osteosarcoma, a rare pediatric cancer for which the identification of new therapeutic targets is urgent.


We used cell viability assays, colony formation assays, and apoptosis assays to analyze the effects of altered GSK-3β expression in U2OS, MG63, SAOS2, U2OS/MTX300, and ZOS osteosarcoma cell lines. Nude mice (n = 5-8 mice per group) were injected with U2OS/MTX300, and ZOS cells to assess the role of GSK-3β in osteosarcoma growth in vivo and to evaluate the effects of inhibitors and/or anticancer drugs on tumor growth. We used an antibody array, polymerase chain reaction, western blotting, and a luciferase reporter assay to establish the effect of GSK-3β inhibition on the nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) pathway. Immunochemistry was performed on primary tumor specimens from osteosarcoma patients (n = 74) to determine the relationship of GSK-3β activity with overall survival.


Osteosarcoma cells with low levels of inactive p-Ser9-GSK-3β formed colonies in vitro and tumors in vivo more readily than cells with higher levels and cells in which GSK-3β had been silenced formed fewer colonies and smaller tumors than parental cells. Silencing or pharmacological inhibition of GSK-3β resulted in apoptosis of osteosarcoma cells. Inhibition of GSK-3β resulted in inhibition of the NF-κB pathway and reduction of NF-κB-mediated transcription. Combination treatments with GSK-3β inhibitors, NF-κB inhibitors, and chemotherapy drugs increased the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs in vitro and in vivo. Patients whose osteosarcoma specimens had hyperactive GSK-3β, and nuclear NF-κB had a shorter median overall survival time (49.2 months) compared with patients whose tumors had inactive GSK-3β and NF-κB (109.2 months).


GSK-3β activity may promote osteosarcoma tumor growth, and therapeutic targeting of the GSK-3β and/or NF-κB pathways may be an effective way to enhance the therapeutic activity of anticancer drugs against osteosarcoma.

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