Flavopiridol (L86-8275), a N-methylpiperidinyl, chlorophenyl flavone, can inhibit cell cycle progression in either G1 or G2 and is a potent cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) 1 inhibitor. In this study, we used MCF-7 breast carcinoma cells that are wild type for p53 and pRb positive and contain CDK4-cyclin D1 and MDA-MB-468 breast carcinoma cells that are mutant p53, pRb negative, and lack CDK4-cyclin D1 to investigate the G1 arrest produced by Flavopiridol. Recombinant CDK4-cyclin D1 was inhibited potently by Flavopiridol (Kiapp, 65 nm), competitive with respect to ATP. Surprisingly, CDK4 immunoprecipitates derived from Flavopiridol-treated MCF-7 cells (3 h, 300 nm Flavopiridol) had an approximately 3-fold increased kinase activity compared with untreated cells. Cyclin D and CDK4 levels were not different at 3 h, but cyclin D levels and CDK4 kinase activity decreased thereafter. The phosphorylation state of pRb was shifted from hypercoincident to hypocoincident with the development of G1 arrest. Asynchronous MDA-MB-468 cells were inhibited in cell cycle progression at both G1 and G2 by Flavopiridol. Flavopiridol inhibited the in vitro kinase activity of CDK2 using an immune complex kinase assay (IC50, 100 nm at 400 µm ATP). Immunoprecipitated CDK2 kinase activity from either MCF-7 or MDA-MB-468 cells exposed to Flavopiridol (300 nm) for increasing time showed an initial increased activity (approximately 1.5-fold at 3 h) compared with untreated cells, followed by a loss of kinase activity to immeasurable levels by 24 h. This increased immunoprecipitated kinase activity was dependent on the Flavopiridol concentration added to intact cells and was associated with a reduction of CDK2 tyrosine phosphorylation. Cyclin E and A levels were not altered to the same extent as cyclin D, and neither CDK4 nor CDK2 levels were changed in response to Flavopiridol. Inhibition of the CDK4 and/or CDK2 kinase activity by Flavopiridol can therefore account for the G1 arrest observed after exposure to Flavopiridol.

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