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Leuk Res. 2012 Apr;36(4):499-508. doi: 10.1016/j.leukres.2011.11.013. Epub 2011 Dec 15.

Glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) inhibition induces apoptosis in leukemic cells through mitochondria-dependent pathway.

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Department of Immunology and Transfusion Medicine, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.


The roles of glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) in cell survival and apoptosis are controversial. We examined the effect of a specific GSK-3 inhibitor (SB-415286) on the regulation of leukemic cells proliferation and apoptosis. SB-415286 (40 μM) induced cell growth inhibition, β-catenin stabilization, cell cycle arrest in G(2)/M phase, cyclin B1 downregulation, and apoptosis in leukemic cell lines KG1a, K562, and CMK. Blocking the death receptor pathway by using a specific inhibitor of caspase-8, did not inhibit SB-415286-induced apoptosis. This indicates that activation of caspase-8 is part of the intrinsic apoptotic pathway and occurs downstream of mitochondria membrane potential depolarization mediated by other caspases. Furthermore, we found that depolarization of mitochondria membrane caused by GSK-3 inhibition is regulated by dephosphorylation of anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2 and downregulation of Bcl-xL. Thus, inhibition of GSK-3-induced apoptosis of leukemic cells could be an attractive target for treatment of leukemia.

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