Blocking protein geranylgeranylation is essential for lovastatin-induced apoptosis of human acute myeloid leukemia cells

Leukemia. 2001 Sep;15(9):1398-407. doi: 10.1038/sj.leu.2402196.


Lovastatin is an inhibitor of the enzyme 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase, the major regulatory enzyme of the mevalonate pathway. We have previously reported that lovastatin induces a significant apoptotic response in human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells. To identify the critical biochemical mechanism(s) essential for lovastatin-induced apoptosis, add-back experiments were conducted to determine which downstream product(s) of the mevalonate pathway could suppress this apoptotic response. Apoptosis induced by lovastatin was abrogated by mevalonate (MVA) and geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate (GGPP), and was partially inhibited by farnesyl pyrophosphate (FPP). Other products of the mevalonate pathway including cholesterol, squalene, lanosterol, desmosterol, dolichol, dolichol phosphate, ubiquinone, and isopentenyladenine did not affect lovastatin-induced apoptosis in AML cells. Our results suggest that inhibiting geranylgeranylation of target proteins is the predominant mechanism of lovastatin-induced apoptosis in AML cells. In support of this hypothesis, the geranylgeranyl transferase inhibitor (GGTI-298) mimicked the effect of lovastatin, whereas the farnesyl transferase inhibitor (FTI-277) was much less effective at triggering apoptosis in AML cells. Inhibition of geranylgeranylation was monitored and associated with the apoptotic response induced by lovastatin and GGTI-298 in the AML cells. We conclude that blockage of the mevalonate pathway, particularly inhibition of protein geranylgeranylation holds a critical role in the mechanism of lovastatin-induced apoptosis in AML cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Benzamides / pharmacology
  • Deoxyuracil Nucleotides / metabolism
  • Fluorescein-5-isothiocyanate
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl CoA Reductases / metabolism
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid / pathology*
  • Lovastatin / pharmacology*
  • Methionine / analogs & derivatives
  • Methionine / pharmacology
  • Mevalonic Acid / pharmacology
  • Polyisoprenyl Phosphates / pharmacology
  • Protein Prenylation / drug effects*
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Benzamides
  • Deoxyuracil Nucleotides
  • FTI 277
  • GGTI 298
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Polyisoprenyl Phosphates
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • deoxyuridine triphosphate
  • farnesyl pyrophosphate
  • Lovastatin
  • Methionine
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl CoA Reductases
  • Fluorescein-5-isothiocyanate
  • geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate
  • Mevalonic Acid