PUMA induction by FoxO3a mediates the anticancer activities of the broad-range kinase inhibitor UCN-01

Mol Cancer Ther. 2010 Nov;9(11):2893-902. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-10-0635. Epub 2010 Oct 26.


Most targeted anticancer drugs are inhibitors of kinases that are aberrantly activated in cancer cells. However, the mechanisms by which kinase inhibitors suppress tumor growth remain unclear. In this study, we found that UCN-01, a staurosporine analogue and broad-range kinase inhibitor used in clinical trials, inhibits colon cancer cell growth by inducing apoptosis via PUMA, a BH3-only Bcl-2 family member and a p53 target. PUMA expression was markedly elevated in a p53-independent fashion following UCN-01 treatment. The induction of PUMA by UCN-01 was mediated by direct binding of FoxO3a to the PUMA promoter following inhibition of AKT signaling. Deficiency in PUMA abrogated UCN-01-induced apoptosis, caspase activation, and mitochondrial dysfunction, and rendered UCN-01 resistance in a clonogenic assay, whereas elevated PUMA expression or a BH3 mimetic sensitized UCN-01 induced apoptosis. Chemosensitization by UCN-01 seemed to involve simultaneous PUMA induction through both p53-dependent and p53-independent mechanisms. Furthermore, deficiency in PUMA suppressed the antitumor effects of UCN-01 in a xenograft model, concurrent with reduced apoptosis and caspase activation in vivo. These results suggest that PUMA-mediated apoptosis is pivotal for the anticancer activities of UCN-01, and possibly other clinically used kinase inhibitor drugs, and that PUMA manipulation may be useful for improving their anticancer activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / genetics*
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / metabolism
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / physiology
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • Female
  • Forkhead Box Protein O3
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / physiology
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • HCT116 Cells
  • HT29 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Models, Biological
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / physiology
  • Staurosporine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Staurosporine / pharmacology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects
  • Up-Regulation / physiology
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • BBC3 protein, human
  • FOXO3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Box Protein O3
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • 7-hydroxystaurosporine
  • Staurosporine