Purpose: The provirus integration site for Moloney murine leukemia virus 1 (Pim-1) kinase is overexpressed in various tumors and has been linked to poor prognosis. Its role as proto-oncogene is based on several Pim-1 target proteins involved in pivotal cellular processes. Here, we explore the functional relevance of Pim-1 in colon carcinoma.
Experimental design: RNAi-based knockdown approaches, as well as a specific small molecule inhibitor, were used to inhibit Pim-1 in colon carcinoma cells. The effects were analyzed regarding proliferation, apoptosis, sensitization toward cytostatic treatment, and overall antitumor effect in vitro and in mouse tumor models in vivo.
Results: We demonstrate antiproliferative, proapoptotic, and overall antitumor effects of Pim-1 inhibition. The sensitization to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) treatment upon Pim-1 knockdown offers new possibilities for combinatorial treatment approaches. Importantly, this also antagonizes a 5-FU-triggered Pim-1 up-regulation, which is mediated by decreased levels of miR-15b, a microRNA we newly identify to regulate Pim-1. The analysis of the molecular effects of Pim-1 inhibition reveals a complex regulatory network, with therapeutic Pim-1 repression leading to major changes in oncogenic signal transduction with regard to p21(Cip1/WAF1), STAT3, c-jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK), c-Myc, and survivin and in the levels of apoptosis-related proteins Puma, Bax, and Bcl-xL.
Conclusions: We demonstrate that Pim-1 plays a pivotal role in several tumor-relevant signaling pathways and establish the functional relevance of Pim-1 in colon carcinoma. Our results also substantiate the RNAi-mediated Pim-1 knockdown based on polymeric polyethylenimine/small interfering RNA nanoparticles as a promising therapeutic approach.