ABSTRACT: Recently, it was shown that MYCN amplified cells spontaneously expulse extrachromosomally amplified gene copies by micronuclei formation. Furthermore, it was shown that these cells lose their malignant phenotype and start to age. We tested whether it is possible to encourage neuroblastoma tumor cells to enter the senescence pathway by low concentrations of the micronuclei-inducing drug hydroxyurea (HU). We studied the effect of HU on 12 neuroblastoma cell lines with extra- or intrachromosomally amplified MYCN copies and without amplification. Two extrachromosomally amplified neuroblastoma cell lines (with double minutes) were investigated in detail. Already after 3 weeks of HU treatment, the BrdU uptake dropped to 25% of the starting cells. After 4 weeks, enlarged and flattened cells (F-cells) and increased granularity in the majority of cells were observed. A drastic reduction of the MYCN copy number-down to one copy per cell-associated with CD44 and MHCI upregulation in up to 100% of the HU treated neuroblastoma cells was found after 5-8 weeks. Telomere length was reduced to half the length within 8 weeks of HU treatment, and telomerase activity was not detectable at this time, while being strongly expressed at the beginning. All these features and the expression of senescence-associated-beta-galactosidase (SA-beta-GAL) in up to 100% of the cells support the hypothesis that these cells entered the senescence pathway. Thus, low-dose HU is a potent senescence elicitor for tumor cells with gene amplification, possibly representing an attractive additional strategy for treatment of this subset of tumors.
Genes Chromosomes and Cancer 03/2007; 46(2):130-42. · 3.31 Impact Factor