Apoptosis induced by protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) inhibition in T leukemia cells is negatively regulated by PP2A-associated p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase

Cell Signal. 2007 Jan;19(1):139-51. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2006.05.030. Epub 2006 Jun 7.


Serine/threonine phosphatase regulation of phosphorylation-mediated intracellular signaling controls a number of important processes in mammalian cells. In this study, we show that constitutively active protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A), which is a serine/threonine phosphatase, is essential for T leukemia cell survival. Jurkat and CCRF-CEM T leukemia cells treated with the PP2A-selective inhibitor okadaic acid (OA) showed a dose- and time-dependent induction of apoptosis, as indicated by loss of mitochondrial transmembrane potential (delta psi(m)), cleavage-induced activation of caspase-3, -8, and -9, and DNA fragmentation. In addition, caspase-8 or caspase-9 inhibition with z-IETD-fmk or z-LEHD-fmk, respectively, largely prevented OA-induced apoptosis. Although OA treatment did not affect constitutive Bcl-2 expression, overexpression of Bcl-2 prevented both OA-induced DNA fragmentation and dissipation of delta psi(m). Furthermore, inhibition of caspase-3, -8, or -9 partially protected against OA-induced loss of delta psi(m). In addition, caspase-9 and caspase-3 inhibition largely prevented procaspase-3 and procaspase-8 cleavage, respectively, while caspase-8 inhibition partially interfered with procaspase-9 cleavage in OA-treated T leukemia cells. Thus, PP2A inhibition triggered the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis, which was enhanced by a mitochondrial feedback amplification loop. PP2A has also been implicated in the regulation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). Co-immunoprecipitation analysis revealed a physical association between the catalytic subunit of PP2A and p38 MAPK in T leukemia cells. Moreover, OA treatment caused p38 MAPK to be phosphorylated in a dose- and time-dependent fashion, indicating that PP2A prevented p38 MAPK activation. Although p38 MAPK activation usually promotes apoptosis, pharmacologic inhibition of p38 MAPK exacerbated OA-induced DNA fragmentation and loss of delta psi(m) in T leukemia cells, suggesting that, in this instance, the p38 MAPK signaling pathway promoted cell survival. Collectively, these findings indicate that PP2A and p38 MAPK have coordinate effects on signaling pathways that regulate the survival of T leukemia cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis*
  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA Fragmentation
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Membranes / metabolism
  • Leukemia, T-Cell / metabolism*
  • Leukemia, T-Cell / pathology
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial
  • Okadaic Acid / pharmacology
  • Oligopeptides / pharmacology
  • Permeability
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Phosphatase 2
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Signal Transduction
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / physiology*


  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Oligopeptides
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • benzyloxycarbonyl-leucyl-glutamyl-histidyl-aspartic acid fluoromethyl ketone
  • Okadaic Acid
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases
  • Protein Phosphatase 2
  • Caspases