A series of bisindolylmaleimide (Bis) compounds were designed as analogs of the natural compound staurosporine (STS), which is a potent inducer of apoptosis. Many of the Bis analogs appear to be highly selective inhibitors of the protein kinase C (PKC) family, including PKC-α, -β, -γ, -δ, -ε, and -ζ, unlike STS, which is an inhibitor of a broad spectrum of protein kinases. In this report we describe the effects of the Bis analogs, Bis-I, Bis-II, Bis-III and Ro-31-8220 on the survival and proliferation of HL-60 cells, which have been widely used as a model cell system for studying the biological roles of PKC. Treatment of HL-60 cells with Bis-I, Bis-II, Bis-III, or Ro-31-8220 blocked phosphorylation of the PKC target protein Raf-1 with equal potency but did not appear to affect the general phosphorylation of proteins by other kinases. However, the biological effects of the His compounds were different: Bis-I and Bis-II had no observable effects on either cell survival or proliferation; Bis-III inhibited cell proliferation but not survival, whereas Ro-31-8220 induced apoptosis. These results indicated that the members of the PKC family which could be inhibited by the Bis analogs were required neither for survival nor proliferation of HL-60 cells. Analyses of cells treated with Ro-31-8220 showed that the apoptotic effect of Ro-31-8220 on HL-60 cells was mediated by a well-characterized transduction process of apoptotic signals: i.e., mitochondrial cytochrome c efflux and the activation of caspase-3 in the cytosol. Moreover, the ability of Ro-31-8220 to induce apoptotic activation was completely inhibited by the overexpression of the apoptotic suppressor gene, Bcl-2, in the cells. Interestingly, proliferation of the Bcl-2-over-expressing cells was still sensitive to the presence of Ro-31-8220, suggesting that the inhibitory effects of Ro-31-8220 on viability and cell proliferation were mediated by different mechanisms. In particular, the apoptotic effect of Ro-31-8220 on cells was not altered by the presence of an excess amount of the other Bis analogs, suggesting that this effect is mediated by a factor(s) other than PKC or by a mechanism which was not saturable by the other Bis analogs. Finally, structure-function analyses of compounds related to Ro-31-8220 revealed that a thioamidine prosthetic group in Ro-311-8220 was largely responsible for its apoptotic activity.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported in part by a National Science Foundation grant MCB-9630362 (to JH Wyche and EA Hendrickson), and a Milheim Foundation for Cancer Research grant 99-10 (to Z Han).