PloS one

Inhibition of MDM2 by nilotinib contributes to cytotoxicity in both Philadelphia-positive and negative acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

PMID 24968304


Nilotinib is a selective BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase inhibitor related to imatinib that is more potent than imatinib. Nilotinib is widely used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and Philadelphia-positive (Ph+) acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The present study identifies Mouse double minute 2 homolog (MDM2) as a target of nilotinib. In studying ALL cell lines, we found that the expression of MDM2 in both Philadelphia positive (Ph+) and Philadelphia negative (Ph-) ALL cells was remarkably inhibited by nilotinib, in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Further studies demonstrated that nilotinib inhibited MDM2 at the post-translational level by inducing MDM2 self-ubiquitination and degradation. Nilotinib-mediated MDM2 downregulation did not result in accumulation and activation of p53. Inhibition of MDM2 in nilotinib-treated ALL cells led to downregulation of the anti-apoptotic protein X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP), a translational target of MDM2, resulting in activation of caspases. Inhibition of XIAP following nilotinib-mediated downregulation of MDM2 resulted in apoptosis of MDM2-expressing ALL; however, similar nilotinib treatment induced stronger apoptosis in Ph+/MDM2+ ALL than in Ph-/MDM2+ or Ph+/MDM2- ALL. The ALL cells that were Ph-/MDM2- were totally resistant to nilotinib. These results suggested that nilotinib can inhibit MDM2 and induce a p53-independent apoptosis pathway by downregulating XIAP; thus, nilotinib can treat not only Ph+, but also Ph- ALL patients whose cancer cells overexpress MDM2.