p38 MAPK activation, JNK inhibition, neoplastic growth inhibition, and increased gap junction communication in human lung carcinoma and Ras-transformed cells by 4-phenyl-3-butenoic acid.

Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Mercer University, Atlanta, Georgia 30341, USA.
Journal of Cellular Biochemistry (Impact Factor: 3.06). 09/2011; 113(1):269-81. DOI: 10.1002/jcb.23353
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Human lung neoplasms frequently express mutations that down-regulate expression of various tumor suppressor molecules, including mitogen-activated protein kinases such as p38 MAPK. Conversely, activation of p38 MAPK in tumor cells results in cancer cell cycle inhibition or apoptosis initiated by chemotherapeutic agents such as retinoids or cisplatin, and is therefore an attractive approach for experimental anti-tumor therapies. We now report that 4-phenyl-3-butenoic acid (PBA), an experimental compound that reverses the transformed phenotype at non-cytotoxic concentrations, activates p38 MAPK in tumorigenic cells at concentrations and treatment times that correlate with decreased cell growth and increased cell-cell communication. H2009 human lung carcinoma cells and ras-transformed rat liver epithelial cells treated with PBA showed increased activation of p38 MAPK and its downstream effectors which occurred after 4 h and lasted beyond 48 h. Untransformed plasmid control cells showed low activation of p38 MAPK compared to ras-transformed and H2009 carcinoma cells, which correlates with the reduced effect of PBA on untransformed cell growth. The p38 MAPK inhibitor, SB203580, negated PBA's activation of p38 MAPK downstream effectors. PBA also increased cell-cell communication and connexin 43 phosphorylation in ras-transformed cells, which were prevented by SB203580. In addition, PBA decreased activation of JNK, which is upregulated in many cancers. Taken together, these results suggest that PBA exerts its growth regulatory effect in tumorigenic cells by concomitant up-regulation of p38 MAPK activity, altered connexin 43 expression, and down-regulation of JNK activity. PBA may therefore be an effective therapeutic agent in human cancers that exhibit down-regulated p38 MAPK activity and/or activated JNK and altered cell-cell communication.

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