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Cancer Res. 2016 Jun 15;76(12):3553-61. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-15-2104. Epub 2016 May 6.

Cell Cycle-Dependent Mechanisms Underlie Vincristine-Induced Death of Primary Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Cells.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Department of Experimental Therapeutics, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas.


Microtubule-targeting agents (MTA), such as the taxanes and vinca alkaloids, are used to treat a variety of cancers due to their ability to perturb microtubule dynamics. In cell culture, MTAs exert their anticancer effects primarily by causing mitotic arrest and cell death. However, accumulating indirect evidence suggests that MTAs may exert their cytotoxicity in human tumors by interfering with interphase microtubules. In this study, we sought to develop and characterize an experimental system in which to test the hypothesis that MTAs induce cell death during interphase. Primary adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cells treated with vincristine only weakly exhibited colocalization between mitotic and apoptotic markers and major characteristics of mitotic death, such as an increase in cells with 4N DNA content before the appearance of cells with <2N DNA content, suggesting a mixed response. Therefore, we separated ALL cells into distinct phases of the cell cycle by centrifugal elutriation, labeled cells with 5-ethynyl-2'-deoxyuridine (EdU), and then treated each population with vincristine. Cells isolated during G1 underwent cell death without evidence of EdU uptake, indicating that the cytotoxic effects of vincristine took place during G1 Conversely, cells isolated during S or G2-M phases underwent death following mitotic arrest. Thus, vincristine induces distinct death programs in primary ALL cells depending on cell-cycle phase, and cells in G1 are particularly susceptible to perturbation of interphase microtubules. Primary ALL cells may therefore provide a powerful model system in which to study the multimodal mechanisms underlying MTA-induced cell death. Cancer Res; 76(12); 3553-61.

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