The effects of vinorelbine and paclitaxel on the activity of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase2 (ERK2), a member of MAP kinase, and its role in the induction of bcl-2 phosphorylation and apoptosis were evaluated in MCF-7 cells. We demonstrated that ERK2 was activated rapidly by vinorelbine, and was inhibited by either paclitaxel or estramustine. A 3-fold increase of ERK2 kinase activity was observed within 30 min when MCF-7 cells were treated with 0.1 microM vinorelbine. In contrast, the same treatment with paclitaxel resulted in a significant decrease of ERK2 kinase activity. We also demonstrated that elevated bcl-2 phosphorylation induced by vinorelbine is paralleled by decrease of a complex formation between bcl-2 and bax, cleavage of poly (ADP) ribose polymerase (PARP) protein, activation of caspase-7, and apoptosis. The levels of bcl-2 phosphorylation, bax, and PARP were not significantly affected by 2'-amino-3'-methoxyflavone (PD 98059), an ERK kinase specific inhibitor. Thus, our data suggest that the apoptosis induced by vinorelbine in MCF-7 cells is mediated through the bcl-2 phosphorylation/bax/caspases pathways, and that activation of ERK2 by vinorelbine does not directly lead to the drug-mediated apoptosis. Since decrease of PARP occurred quickly following the treatment of MCF-7 cells with either 0.1 microM of vinorelbine or paclitaxel, this protein may serve as an early indicator of apoptosis induced not only by DNA damaging agents, but also by antimicrotubule drugs.
Copyright 2001 Cancer Research Campaign