Balance of human choline kinase isoforms is critical for cell cycle regulation: implications for the development of choline kinase-targeted cancer therapy

FEBS J. 2012 Jun;279(11):1915-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2012.08573.x. Epub 2012 Apr 16.


The enzyme choline kinase (CK), which catalyzes the phosphorylation of choline to phosphorylcholine in the presence of ATP, has an essential role in the biosynthesis of phosphatidylcholine, the major constituent of all mammalian cell membranes. CK is encoded by two separate genes expressing the three isoforms CKα1, CKα2 and CKβ that are active as homodimeric or heterodimeric species. Metabolic changes observed in various cancer cell lines and tumors have been associated with differential and marked up-regulation of the CKα genes, and specific inhibition of CKα activity has been proposed as a potential anti-cancer strategy. As a result, less attention has been given to CKβ and its interaction with CKα. With the aim of profiling the intracellular roles of CKα and CKβ, we used RNA interference (RNAi) as a molecular approach to down-regulate the expression of CK in HeLa cells. Individual and simultaneous RNAi-based silencing of the CK α and β isoforms was achieved using different combinations of knockdown strategies. Efficient knockdown was confirmed by immunodetection using our isoform-specific antibodies and by quantitative real-time PCR. Our analyses of the phenotypic consequences of CK depletion showed the expected lethal effect of CKα knockdown. However, CKβ- and CKα + CKβ-silenced cells had no aberrant phenotype. Therefore, our results support the hypothesis that the balance of the α and β isoforms is critical for cancer cell survival. The suppression of the cancer cell killing effect of CKα silencing by simultaneous knockdown of both isoforms implies that a more effective CK-based anti-cancer strategy can be achieved by reducing cross-reactivity with CKβ.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Cycle
  • Choline Kinase / genetics
  • Choline Kinase / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Gene Silencing*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / methods
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Phosphorylcholine / metabolism
  • Protein Multimerization
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Signal Transduction


  • Isoenzymes
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Phosphorylcholine
  • Choline Kinase