Loss of p21Cip1/CDKN1A renders cancer cells susceptible to Polo-like kinase 1 inhibition.

PMID 25483104


The deregulation of Polo-like kinase 1 is inversely linked to the prognosis of patients with diverse human tumors. Targeting Polo-like kinase 1 has been widely considered as one of the most promising strategies for molecular anticancer therapy. While the preclinical results are encouraging, the clinical outcomes are rather less inspiring by showing limited anticancer activity. It is thus of importance to identify molecules and mechanisms responsible for the sensitivity of Polo-like kinase 1 inhibition. We have recently shown that p21Cip1/CDKN1A is involved in the regulation of mitosis and its loss prolongs the mitotic duration accompanied by defects in chromosome segregation and cytokinesis in various tumor cells. In the present study, we demonstrate that p21 affects the efficacy of Polo-like kinase 1 inhibitors, especially Poloxin, a specific inhibitor of the unique Polo-box domain. Intriguingly, upon treatment with Polo-like kinase 1 inhibitors, p21 is increased in the cytoplasm, associated with anti-apoptosis, DNA repair and cell survival. By contrast, deficiency of p21 renders tumor cells more susceptible to Polo-like kinase 1 inhibition by showing a pronounced mitotic arrest, DNA damage and apoptosis. Furthermore, long-term treatment with Plk1 inhibitors induced fiercely the senescent state of tumor cells with functional p21. We suggest that the p21 status may be a useful biomarker for predicting the efficacy of Plk1 inhibition.