BACKGROUND. Epothilones are a promising class of drugs in clinical trials of prostate cancer that target the microtubules, similar to taxanes, and induce apoptosis in taxane resistant tumors. The tumor suppressor p53 is one important molecular mechanism of chemotherapy resistance that in some studies predicted tumor sensitivity to paclitaxel. We hypothesized that epothilone induced cytotoxicity would be influenced by the status of p53 in prostate cells. METHODS. LNCaP, DU145, and a transformed rat prostate (RP) epithelial cell line with a temperature sensitive mutant p53 (val 135) were studied for the effect of epothilone on cell viability, cell cycle, and cell cycle checkpoint proteins. RESULTS. Epothilone had greater cytotoxicity in p53 mutant cancer cells compared to wild type cells. We confirmed our findings by creating a transformed RP epithelial cell line with a temperature sensitive mutant p53 (val 135). Using a tetrazolium (MTT) assay we found that epothilone (100 nM) decreased cell viability in RP cells by 90% with mutant p53 compared to 45% with wild type p53 (P < 0.01). Epothilone induced G2/M arrest in 50% of cells with mutant p53 compared to 25% with wild type p53 (P < 0.01). To begin to understand mechanism of epothilone induced G2/M arrest, we assessed cell cycle checkpoint proteins. We found that the effect to enhance G2/M cell cycle arrest was associated with dephosphorylation of cdc2 in both p53 wild type and p53 mutant RP cells. CONCLUSIONS. These results demonstrate that epothilone is more active against transformed prostate epithelial cells with mutant compared to wild type p53. Epothilone is capable of dephosphorylation of cdc2 in both p53 wild type and mutant cells, which is associated with G2/ M cell cycle arrest. These data provide a basis for further study of p53, and the phosphorylation status of cdc-2, as markers for epothilone sensitivity in clinical studies.
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