UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Etoposide induces cell death via mitochondrial-dependent actions of p53 Jamil, Sarwat; Lam, Irene; Majd, Maryam; Tsai, Shu-Huei; Duronio, Vincent


Background: Etoposide has been used clinically in cancer treatment, as well as in numerous research studies, for many years. However, there is incomplete information about its exact mechanism of action in induction of cell death. Methods: Etoposide was compared at various concentrations to characterize the mechanisms by which it induces cell death. We investigated its effects on mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) and focused on both transcriptional and non-transcriptional responses of p53. Results: Here we demonstrate that treatment of MEFs with higher concentrations of etoposide induce apoptosis and activate the transcription-dependent functions of p53. Interestingly, lower concentrations of etoposide also induced apoptosis, but without any evidence of p53-dependent transcription up-regulation. Treatment of MEFs with an inhibitor of p53, Pifithrin-α, blocked p53-dependent transcription but failed to rescue the cells from etoposide-induced apoptosis. Treatment with PES, which inhibits the mitochondrial arm of the p53 pathway inhibited etoposide-induced cell death at all concentrations tested. Conclusions: We have demonstrated that transcriptional functions of p53 are dispensable for etoposide-induced cell death. The more recently characterized effects of p53 at the mitochondria, likely involving its interactions with BCL-2 family members, are thus more important for etoposide’s actions.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)