Annals of Hematology

, Volume 84, Supplement 1, pp 47–53 | Cite as

Decitabine activates specific caspases downstream of p73 in myeloid leukemia

Original Article


The demethylating effect of 5-aza-2′ deoxycytidine (decitabine, DAC) has been well characterized. The molecular events downstream of methylation inhibition are less well known. Here, DAC was shown to induce apoptosis in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells (p53 mutant and wild type) but not in epithelial or normal peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Apoptosis was characterized by activation of the mitochondrial but not the receptor death pathway, as demonstrated by the release of cytochrome c and loss of mitochondrial membrane potential. Western blotting and enzyme assays showed that caspase-3, but not caspase-6 or caspase-8, were activated. Decitabine induced expression of the cell cycle inhibitor p21, arresting AML cell lines in G1 of the cell cycle. Expression of p21 was induced irrespective of the methylation status of its promoter, mediated instead via reexpression of the tumor suppressor p73, an upstream regulator of p21. The promoter of p73 was hypermethylated in AML cell lines in vitro and in primary AML cells ex vivo but not in DAC-resistant epithelial cells. In conclusion, DAC acts on leukemic myeloid cells via caspase activation, which may be dependent on demethylation of the hypermethylated p73 promoter and consequent reexpression of p73.


Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) Apoptosis Hypermethylation Caspases p73 p21 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Hematology and OncologyUniversitätsmedizin Berlin Charité, Campus VirchowBerlinGermany

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