Exploiting grk2 inhibition as a therapeutic option in experimental cancer treatment: Role of p53-induced mitochondrial apoptosis

Jessica Gambardella, Antonella Fiordelisi, Gaetano Santulli, Michele Ciccarelli, Federica Andrea Cerasuolo, Marina Sala, Eduardo Sommella, Pietro Campiglia, Maddalena Illario, Guido Iaccarino, Daniela Sorriento

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The involvement of GRK2 in cancer cell proliferation and its counter-regulation of p53 have been suggested in breast cancer even if the underlying mechanism has not yet been elucidated. Furthermore, the possibility to pharmacologically inhibit GRK2 to delay cancer cell proliferation has never been explored. We investigated this possibility by setting up a study that combined in vitro and in vivo models to underpin the crosstalk between GRK2 and p53. To reach this aim, we took advantage of the different expression of p53 in cell lines of thyroid cancer (BHT 101 expressing p53 and FRO cells, which are p53-null) in which we overexpressed or silenced GRK2. The pharmacological inhibition of GRK2 was achieved using the specific inhibitor KRX-C7. The in vivo study was performed in Balb/c nude mice, where we treated BHT-101 or FRO-derived tumors with KRX-C7. In our in vitro model, FRO cells were unaffected by GRK2 expression levels, whereas BHT-101 cells were sensitive, thus suggesting a role for p53. The regulation of p53 by GRK2 is due to phosphorylative events in Thr-55, which induce the degradation of p53. In BHT-101 cells, the pharmacologic inhibition of GRK2 by KRX-C7 increased p53 levels and activated apoptosis through the mitochondrial release of cytochrome c. These KRX-C7-mediated events were also confirmed in cancer allograft models in nude mice. In conclusion, our data showed that GRK2 counter-regulates p53 expression in cancer cells through a kinase-dependent activity. Our results further corroborate the anti-proliferative role of GRK2 inhibitors in p53-sensitive tumors and propose GRK2 as a therapeutic target in selected cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3530
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • GRK2
  • GRK2 inhibition
  • Mitochondrial apoptosis
  • P53
  • Thyroid cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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