All-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) is the only clinically useful differentiating agent, being used in the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). The use of ATRA in other types of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) calls for the identification of novel strategies aimed at increasing its therapeutic activity. Here, we provide evidence that pharmacological inhibition of the mitogen-activated protein kinase, p38α, or silencing of the corresponding gene sensitizes APL and AML cell lines, as well as primary cultures of AML blasts to the anti-proliferative and cyto-differentiating activity of ATRA and synthetic retinoids. P38α inhibits ligand-dependent transactivation of the nuclear retinoic acid receptor, RARα, and the derived chimeric protein expressed in the majority of APL cases, PML-RARα. Inhibition is the consequence of ligand-independent binding of p38α, which results in stabilization of RARα and PML-RARα via blockade of their constitutive degradation by the proteasome. The inhibitory effect requires a catalytically active p38α and direct physical interaction with RARα and PML-RARα. Ser-369 in the E-region of RARα is essential for the binding of p38α and the ensuing functional effects on the activity of the receptor.
- retinoic acid
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine