Evidence of a functional role for the cyclin-dependent kinase-inhibitor p21WAF1/CIP1/MDA6 in promoting differentiation and preventing mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptosis induced by sodium butyrate in human myelomonocytic leukemia cells (U937)

Int J Oncol. 2001 Jul;19(1):181-91. doi: 10.3892/ijo.19.1.181.


The impact of dysregulation of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21WAF1/CIP1/MDA6 has been examined in U937 human monocytic leukemia cells in relation to cell cycle arrest and differentiation following treatment with the histone deacetylase inhibitor sodium butyrate (SB). Cells stably transfected with a p21WAF1/CIP1/MDA6 antisense construct, in marked contrast to their wild-type counterparts, failed to up-regulate p21WAF1/CIP1/MDA6, undergo G1 arrest, or express the maturation marker CD11b when exposed to 1 or 3 mM SB. However, antisense-expressing cells were significantly more susceptible to SB-mediated mitochondrial injury and apoptosis, manifested by increased cytosolic translocation of cytochrome c, activation of pro-caspase 3, and degradation of PARP. Dysregulation of p21WAF1/CIP1/MDA6 did not modify the extent of SB-induced histone acetylation, but did result in cleavage of p27KIP1, Bcl-2 and pRb, as well as diminished levels of full-length underphosphorylated pRb. Finally, dysregulation of p21WAF1/CIP1/MDA6 did not modify SB-mediated down-regulation of E2F-1 or c-Myc, but was associated with enhanced down-regulation of cyclins D1 and E. Together, these findings indicate that in U937 leukemia cells, p21WAF1/CIP1/MDA6 plays a critical functional role in SB-mediated G1 arrest and maturation, and suggest that cells displaying dysregulation of this CDKI respond to SB by engaging a default apoptotic program.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Butyrates / pharmacology*
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Cyclins / genetics
  • Cyclins / metabolism*
  • Cyclins / physiology*
  • Cytochrome c Group / metabolism
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / metabolism*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Histone Deacetylases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myelomonocytic, Acute / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / genetics
  • Transfection
  • U937 Cells / drug effects
  • U937 Cells / metabolism*


  • Butyrates
  • CDKN1A protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Cyclins
  • Cytochrome c Group
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases
  • Histone Deacetylases