In the present report, the role of ATR-Chk1-Wee1 and ATM-Chk2-p53-p21 pathways in stress-induced cell cycle control is analysed in melanoma cells. Treatment of p53 wild-type melanoma cells with the genotoxic agent doxorubicin induces G2-M arrest, inhibitory phosphorylation of cell cycle kinase Cdc2 (CDK1) and enhanced expression of p53/p21. Wee1 inhibition under doxorubicin pulse-treatment reduces G2-M arrest and induces apoptosis. Inhibition of upstream kinase Chk1 under doxorubicin treatment almost completely abolishes stress-induced G2-M arrest and induces enhanced apoptosis. Interestingly, Chk1 inhibition alone even further increases apoptosis. While Chk1 inhibition alone almost completely abolishes G0-G1 arrest, combined treatment with doxorubicin re-establishes G0-G1 arrest. Moreover, Chk1 inhibition alone induces only a slight p53/p21 induction, while a strong induction of both proteins is observed by the combination with doxorubicin. These findings are suggestive for a particular role of p53/p21 in G0-G1, and Chk1 in G0-G1 and G2-M arrest. In line with this, the p53-mutant SK-Mel-28 melanoma cells do not mount a significant G0-G1 arrest under combined doxorubicin and Chk1 inhibitor treatment but rather show extensive apoptosis. Moreover, knockdown of p21 dramatically reduces stress-induced G0-G1 arrest under doxorubicin and Chk1 inhibitor treatment accompanied by massive DNA damage and apoptosis induction. Treatment of melanoma cells with an inhibitor of Chk2 upstream kinase ATM and doxorubicin almost completely abolishes G0-G1 arrest. Taken together, both Chk1 and Wee1 are mediators of G2-M arrest, while p53, p21 and Chk1 are mediators of G0-G1 arrest in melanoma cells. Combined treatment with chemotherapeutic agents such as doxorubicin and Chk1 inhibitors may help to overcome apoptosis resistance of p53-proficient melanoma cells. But treatment with Chk1 inhibitor alone may even be more efficient.
Keywords: Cell cycle; Cell signalling; Chk1; Tumour biology; Wee1.
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