Recently, it has been shown that 9-hydroxyellipticine (9-HE), an antitumor alkaloid has a unique property of restoring functional wild-type (wt) p53 activity via inhibition of mutant (mt) p53 protein phosphorylation. In the present study, we investigated the effect of 9-HE on the drug sensitivity of human pancreatic cancer cells. Exposure of cells to 9-HE at a relatively low concentration of 1 μM induced almost no cell death but was sufficient to restore wt p53 activity, as evidenced by an induction of endogenous p21(WAF1/CIP1) concomitant with G1 and G2/M arrests in cell-cycle progression. Pretreatment with 1 μM 9-HE markedly enhanced cell killing when combined with cisplatin or mitomycin C. In contrast, 9-HE pretreatment protected cells from killing by 5-fluorouracil, VP-16, or vincristine. These effects of 9-HE were specific for several cell lines containing mt p53 and were not observed in p53-negative or wt p53 expressing cells. Taken together, these findings suggest that 9-HE may exert different effects on the drug sensitivity of pancreatic cancer cells displaying p53 mutations possibly through restoration of wt p53. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.
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