p21WAF1/CIP1 plays a major role in the induction of G1 arrest following DNA damage. Although p21WAF1/CIP1 expression is regulated by the tumor suppressor p53, induction of p21WAF1/CIP1 expression through p53-independent pathways has been described in numerous cell types. In this report, we describe the mechanism by which the retinoid 6-[3-(1-adamantyl)-4-hydroxyphenyl]-2-naphthalene carboxylic acid (CD437) induces p21WAF1/CIP1 in breast carcinoma cells possessing either a wild-type (MCF-7 cells) or mutated (MDA-MB-468 cells) p53. Exposure of MDA-MB-468 cells to this retinoid results in an approximately 10-fold increase in p21WAF1/CIP1 mRNA levels, whereas less than a 2-fold increase in p21WAF1/CIP1 gene transcription was observed as indicated by transient transfection experiments utilizing a p21WAF1/CIP1 promoter firefly luciferase reporter gene construct and nuclear run-off studies. We found similar results in the MCF-7 cells (Z-M. Shao et al., Oncogene, 11: 493–504, 1995). We have now found that while enhancing p21WAF1/CIP1 gene transcription minimally, this retinoid increases p21WAF1/CIP1 mRNA stability by 3-fold in both cell types. We also demonstrate that ∼1.5 kb of the 3′ untranslated region causes enhanced instability of p21WAF1/CIP1 mRNA. The retinoid-dependent increase in p21WAF1/CIP1 mRNA stability is accompanied by an increase in p21WAF1/CIP1 protein expression, as indicated by Western blot experiments utilizing anti-p21WAF1/CIP1 monoclonal antibody. This increase in p21WAF1/CIP1 is subsequently followed by the onset of programmed cell death in both cell types. Thus, CD437 is a novel retinoid which enhances p21WAF1/CIP1 mRNA levels through stabilization of the message regardless of the p53 status of the cell.

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Supported in part by the Medical Research Services of the Department of Veterans Affairs and NIH Grants CA 63335 (J. A. F.) and CA 51993 (M. I. D.).

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