Phorbol ester-mediated inhibition of growth and regulation of proto-oncogene expression in the human T cell leukemia line JURKAT

Oncogene. 1991 Mar;6(3):455-60.


The expression and function of several proto-oncogenes were examined in a human acute T cell leukemia line, JURKAT, during phorbol ester-induced terminal differentiation. Treating JURKAT cells with the phorbol ester tetradecanoyl phorbol acetate (TPA) inhibited their proliferation and induced expression of the gene for the interleukin 2 receptor alpha chain (IL2R-alpha), consistent with previous reports. In unstimulated proliferating JURKAT cells, high levels of C-MYC, N-RAS, and BCL2 mRNAs were found that diminished rapidly following TPA-induced cessation of growth. In contrast, accumulation of mRNAs for the C-FOS, C-JUN, and EGR-1 genes increased markedly in TPA-treated cells and preceded the induction of IL2R-alpha mRNA. Expression of C-MYB, C-RAF-1, C-LCK, C-FYN, and C-FGR proto-oncogenes was relatively unchanged. To explore directly the function of two of these protooncogenes in regulating the growth of JURKAT T cells, we stably transferred C-MYC and BCL2 expression plasmids into these cells. Despite sustained expression of C-MYC, BCL2, or the combination of these protooncogenes, TPA continued to inhibit JURKAT cell growth and to induce IL2R expression. Thus, although C-MYC and BCL2 proto-oncogene expression correlated with proliferation in TPA-treated JURKAT cells, continuous over-expression of even the combination of these oncogenes was insufficient for abrogating the effects of TPA in these leukemic T cells. Because human lymphoid malignancies frequently contain chromosomal translocations that deregulate the expression of C-MYC and BCL2, our findings could have relevance for attempts to induce terminal differentiation of leukemic cells by in vitro exposure of patients' bone marrow cells to phorbol esters.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Northern
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, T-Cell / genetics*
  • Leukemia, T-Cell / pathology
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Plasmids
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogenes*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / genetics
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate / pharmacology*
  • Transfection
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate