Key role of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27(kip1) for embryonal carcinoma cell survival and differentiation

Gustavo Baldassarre, Maria Vittoria Barone, Barbara Belletti, Claudia Sandomenico, Paola Bruni, Stefania Spiezia, Angelo Boccia, Maria Teresa Vento, Annunciata Romano, Stefano Pepe, Alfredo Fusco, Giuseppe Viglietto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hexamethylen-bisacetamide (HMBA) represents the prototype of a group of hybrid polar compounds, which induce differentiation in a variety of transformed cells including human embryonal carcinoma cells. Therefore, HMBA has been used in the differentiation therapy of cancer for patients with both hematological and solid malignancies. Upon HMBA treatment, the embryonal carcinoma cell line NTERA-2 clone D1 (NT2/D1) accumulates in G1 and undergoes terminal differentiation. Here we demonstrate that growth arrest and differentiation of NT2/D1 cells induced by HMBA involve increased expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27, enhanced association of p27 with cyclin E/CDK2 complexes and suppression of kinase activity associated to cyclin E/CDK2 (but not to cyclin D3/CDK4). When HMBA differentiation was induced in the presence of p27 antisense oligonucleotides, NT2/D1 cells failed to arrest growth properly and, in parallel with the reduction of the anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 gene expression, cells underwent massive programmed cell death. Conversely, constitutive expression of p27 into NT2/D1 cells induced a marked reduction in the growth potential of these cells and partially reproduced HMBA-induced modification of surface antigen expression (down-regulation of SSEA-3 expression and up-regulation of VINIS-53 expression). Expression of p21 induced growth arrest but not differentiation. Likewise, inhibition of CDK2 by transfection of a dominant negative CDK2 in NT2/D1 cells or treatment with the kinase inhibitor olomucine induced growth arrest but not differentiation. Therefore, we propose that p27 represents a crucial molecule in HMBA signaling that cannot be replaced by p21. Furthermore, the results obtained with CDK2 inhibitors demonstrate that the block of CDK2 activity is sufficient for growth arrest but not for cell differentiation and suggest that, at least in these cells, growth arrest and differentiation are regulated by two overlapping but different pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6241-6251
Number of pages11
Issue number46
Publication statusPublished - Nov 4 1999


  • Apoptosis
  • Differentiation
  • Embryonal carcinoma
  • HMBA
  • p27

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research
  • Genetics


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