Polyamine depletion in human melanoma cells leads to G1 arrest associated with induction of p21WAF1/CIP1/SDI1, changes in the expression of p21-regulated genes, and a senescence-like phenotype

Debora L. Kramer, Ying Chen, Paula Diegelman, Kersti Alm, Adrian R. Black, Carl W. Porter, Bey Dih Chang, Igor B. Roninson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

81 Scopus citations


The cell cycle regulatory events that interface with polyamine requirements for cell growth have not yet been clearly identified. Here we use specific inhibitors of polyamine biosynthetic enzymes to investigate the effect of polyamine pool depletion on cell cycle regulation. Treatment of MALME-3M cells with either the ornithine decarboxylase inhibitor α-difluoromethylornithine or the S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase inhibitor MDL-73811 lowered specific polyamine pools and slowed cell growth but did not induce cell cycle arrest. By contrast, treatment with the combination of inhibitors halted cell growth and caused a distinct G1, arrest. The latter was associated with marked reduction of all three polyamine pools, a strong increase in p21WAF1/CIP1/SDI1 (p2l), and hypophosphorylation of retinoblastoma protein. All effects were fully prevented by exogenous polyamines. p2l induction preceded p53 stabilization in MALME-3M cells and also occurred in a polyamine-depleted, p53-nonfunctional melanoma cell line, indicating that p21 is induced at least in part through p53-independent mechanisms. Conditional overexpression of p21 in a fibrosarcoma cell line was shown previously to inhibit the expression of multiple proliferation-associated genes and to induce the expression of genes associated with various aspects of cell senescence and organism aging. Polyamine depletion in MALME-3M cells was associated with inhibition of seven of seven tested p21-inhibited genes and with induction of 13 of 14 tested p21-induced genes. p2l expression is also known to induce a senescence-like phenotype, and phenotypic features of senescence were observed in polyamine-depleted MALME-3M cells. Cells increased in size, appeared more granular, and expressed senescence-associated β-galactosidase. Cells released from the polyamine inhibition lost the ability to form colonies, failed to replicate their DNA, and ∼25% became bi- or multinucleated. These events parallel the outcome of prolonged p21 induction in fibrosarcoma cells. The results of this study indicate that polyamine pool depletion achieved by specific biosynthetic enzyme inhibitors causes p21-mediated G1 cell cycle arrest followed by p21-mediated changes in gene expression, development of a senescencelike phenotype, and loss of cellular proliferative capacity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7754-7762
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Research
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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