Inhibition of isoprenylcysteine carboxylmethyltransferase induces autophagic-dependent apoptosis and impairs tumor growth

Oncogene. 2010 Sep 2;29(35):4959-70. doi: 10.1038/onc.2010.247. Epub 2010 Jul 12.


Inhibition of isoprenylcysteine carboxylmethyltransferase (Icmt), which catalyzes the final step in the post-translational C-terminal processing of prenylated proteins, suppresses tumor cell growth and induces cell death. Icmt inhibition by either a small molecule inhibitor termed as cysmethynil or inhibitory RNA induces marked autophagy leading to cell death. HepG2 cells were used to investigate the function of autophagy in tumor cell death. Suppression of autophagy, either pharmacologically or through knockdown of the autophagy essential proteins, Atg5 or Atg1, inhibits not only cysmethynil-induced autophagy, but also apoptosis in HepG2 cells. The dependence of cysmethynil-induced apoptosis on autophagy was further shown using autophagy-deficient mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) cells. Atg5(-/-) MEF cells were found to be resistant to cysmethynil-induced apoptosis, whereas wild-type MEFs showed high sensitivity to apoptosis induction. These data indicate that inhibition of Icmt can elicit cell death through two linked mechanisms, autophagy and apoptosis, and that autophagy can be an active player upstream of apoptosis in cell types capable of apoptotic cell death, such as HepG2 and MEFs. Further, treatment of mice-bearing HepG2-derived tumors with cysmethynil resulted in marked inhibition of tumor growth; analysis of tumor tissue from these mice revealed markers consistent with autophagy induction and cell growth arrest.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Autophagy / drug effects*
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 5
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Indoles / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / deficiency
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Protein Methyltransferases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Atg5 protein, mouse
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 5
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Indoles
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • cysmethynil
  • Protein Methyltransferases
  • protein-S-isoprenylcysteine O-methyltransferase