The 90 kDa Ribosomal S6 Kinase (RSK) drives cell proliferation and survival in cancers, although its oncogenic mechanism has not been well characterized. Phosphorylated level of RSK (T573) was increased in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients and associated with poor survival. To examine the role of RSK in AML, we analyzed apoptosis and the cell cycle profile following treatment with BI-D1870, a potent inhibitor of RSK. BI-D1870 treatment increased the G2/M population and induced apoptosis in AML cell lines and patient AML cells. Characterization of mitotic phases showed that the metaphase/anaphase transition was significantly inhibited by BI-D1870. BI-D1870 treatment impeded the association of activator CDC20 with APC/C, but increased binding of inhibitor MAD2 to CDC20, preventing mitotic exit. Moreover, the inactivation of spindle assembly checkpoint or MAD2 knockdown released cells from BI-D1870-induced metaphase arrest. Therefore, we investigated whether BI-D1870 potentiates the anti-leukemic activity of vincristine by targeting mitotic exit. Combination treatment of BI-D1870 and vincristine synergistically increased mitotic arrest and apoptosis in acute leukemia cells. These data show that BI-D1870 induces apoptosis of AML cells alone and in combination with vincristine through blocking mitotic exit, providing a novel approach to overcoming vincristine resistance in AML cells.
Keywords: BI-D1870; RSK; acute myeloid leukemia; spindle assembly checkpoint; vincristine.