Patients with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS) have poorer response to conventional chemotherapy and lower survival rates than those with embryonal RMS (ERMS). To identify compounds that preferentially block the growth of ARMS, we conducted a small-scale screen of 160 kinase inhibitors against the ARMS cell line Rh30 and ERMS cell line RD and identified inhibitors of glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3), including TWS119 as ARMS-selective inhibitors. GSK3 inhibitors inhibited cell proliferation and induced apoptosis more effectively in Rh30 than RD cells. Ectopic expression of fusion protein PAX3-FKHR in RD cells significantly increased their sensitivity to TWS119. Down-regulation of GSK3 by GSK3 inhibitors or siRNA significantly reduced the transcriptional activity of PAX3-FKHR. These results suggest that GSK3 is directly involved in regulating the transcriptional activity of PAX3-FKHR. Also, GSK3 phosphorylated PAX3-FKHR in vitro, suggesting that GSK3 might regulate PAX3-FKHR activity via phosphorylation. These findings support a novel mechanism of PAX3-FKHR regulation by GSK3 and provide a novel strategy to develop GSK inhibitors as anti-ARMS therapies.
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