Vitamin D(3)-induced apoptosis of murine squamous cell carcinoma cells. Selective induction of caspase-dependent MEK cleavage and up-regulation of MEKK-1

Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001


Vitamin D(3) inhibits cell growth and induces apoptosis in several human cancer lines in vitro and in vivo. However, little is known about the molecular events involved in vitamin D(3)-induced apoptosis.

Here, we demonstrate that the growth-promoting/pro-survival signaling molecule mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) is cleaved in a caspase-dependent manner in murine squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cells induced to undergo apoptosis by treatment with vitamin D(3).

Cleavage resulted in nearly complete loss of full-length MEK and ERK1/2 phosphorylation. ERK1/2 expression was affected only slightly. The phosphorylation and expression of Akt, a kinase regulating a second cell survival pathway, was also inhibited after treatment with vitamin D(3).

However, the pro-apoptotic signaling molecule MEKK-1 was up-regulated in both apoptotic and non-apoptotic cells with greater induction and partial N-terminal proteolysis of MEKK-1 observed in apoptotic cells. In contrast to vitamin D(3), cisplatin and etoposide down-regulated Akt levels only modestly, did not promote significant loss of MEK expression, and did not up-regulate MEKK-1.

We propose that vitamin D(3) induces apoptosis in SCC cells by a unique mechanism involving selective caspase-dependent MEK cleavage and up-regulation of MEKK-1. Additional evidence is provided that vitamin D(3)-induced apoptosis may be mediated via p38 MAPK.



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