p53 deficiency enhances mitotic arrest and slippage induced by pharmacological inhibition of Aurora kinases

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Abstract

A number of small-molecule inhibitors of Aurora kinases have been developed and are undergoing clinical trials for anti-cancer therapies. Different Aurora kinases, however, behave as very different targets: while inhibition of Aurora A (AURKA) induces a delay in mitotic exit, inhibition of Aurora B (AURKB) triggers mitotic slippage. Furthermore, while it is evident that p53 is regulated by Aurora kinase-dependent phosphorylation, how p53 may in turn regulate Aurora kinases remains mysterious. To address these issues, isogenic p53-containing and -negative cells were exposed to classic inhibitors that target both AURKA and AURKB (Alisertib and ZM447439), as well as to new generation of inhibitors that target AURKA (MK-5108), AURKB (Barasertib) individually. The fate of individual cells was then tracked with time-lapse microscopy. Remarkably, loss of p53, either by gene disruption or small interfering RNA-mediated depletion, sensitized cells to inhibition of both AURKA and AURKB, promoting mitotic arrest and slippage respectively. As the p53-dependent post-mitotic checkpoint is also important for preventing genome reduplication after mitotic slippage, these studies indicate that the loss of p53 in cancer cells represents a major opportunity for anti-cancer drugs targeting the Aurora kinases.

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