Send to

Choose Destination
Cell Death Differ. 2015 Dec;22(12):1946-56. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2015.59. Epub 2015 May 29.

Identification of synthetic lethality of PLK1 inhibition and microtubule-destabilizing drugs.

Author information

Institute for Experimental Cancer Research in Pediatrics, Goethe-University, Frankfurt, Germany.
German Cancer Consortium (DKTK), Heidelberg, Germany.
German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.


Polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) is frequently overexpressed in cancer, which correlates with poor prognosis. Therefore, we investigated PLK1 as therapeutic target using rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) as a model. Here, we identify a novel synthetic lethal interaction of PLK1 inhibitors and microtubule-destabilizing drugs in preclinical RMS models and elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms of this synergism. PLK1 inhibitors (i.e., BI 2536 and BI 6727) synergistically induce apoptosis together with microtubule-destabilizing drugs (i.e., vincristine (VCR), vinblastine (VBL) and vinorelbine (VNR)) in several RMS cell lines (combination index <0.9) including a patient-derived primary RMS culture. Importantly, PLK1 inhibitors and VCR cooperate to significantly suppress RMS growth in two in vivo models, including a mouse xenograft model, without causing additive toxicity. In addition, no toxicity was observed in non-malignant fibroblast or myoblast cultures. Mechanistically, BI 2536/VCR co-treatment triggers mitotic arrest, which initiates mitochondrial apoptosis by inactivation of antiapoptotic BCL-2 family proteins, followed by BAX/BAK activation, production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and activation of caspase-dependent or caspase-independent effector pathways. This conclusion is supported by data showing that BI 2536/VCR-induced apoptosis is significantly inhibited by preventing cells to enter mitosis, by overexpression of BCL-2 or a non-degradable MCL-1 mutant, by BAK knockdown, ROS scavengers, caspase inhibition or endonuclease G silencing. This identification of a novel synthetic lethality of PLK1 inhibitors and microtubule-destabilizing drugs has important implications for developing PLK1 inhibitor-based combination treatments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center