The role of ERK 1/2 and p38 MAP-kinase pathways in Taxol-induced apoptosis in human ovarian carcinoma cells

Rachel Seidman, Inna Gitelman, Orli Sagi, Susan Band Horwitz, Marina Wolfson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Taxol is an anticancer agent of natural origin with significant activity against a number of human cancers including ovarian and breast carcinomas. Its cytotoxic activity has been attributed to its ability to stabilize microtubules and to promote microtubule assembly. Recently it has become clearer that Taxol has additional activities including effects in cell signaling and gene expression. We have shown previously that Taxol activates ERK 1/2 MAP-kinases and results in the formation of GRB2/SHC complexes in murine macrophage-like RAW 267.4 cells. Here we demonstrate that Taxol activates ERK 1/2 and p38 MAP-kinases in human ovarian carcinoma cells with distinct kinetics. Activation of ERK1/2 has been observed at low concentrations of Taxol (1-100 nM) within 0.5-6 h, whereas longer exposure (24 h) to nanomolar concentrations of Taxol resulted in an abrogation of the ERK1/2 phosphorylation/activation. Higher concentrations (1-10 μM) resulted in a sharp inhibition of ERK1/2 activity. p38 kinase was activated by high concentrations (1-10 μM) of Taxol within 2 h and remained active for more than 24 h. The kinetic studies showed that these effects of Taxol coincided with an inhibition of proliferation, and the onset of apoptosis. The appearance of the fragmented chromatin visualized by DAPI staining, and DNA fragments seen on an agarose gel, coincided with the decrease in ERK1/2 activation and concomitant increase of the level of active p38 MAPK. The inhibitor PD98059 abrogated ERK 1/2 activation and increased the cytotoxic effect of Taxol. An inhibitor of p38 kinase, SB203580, protected the cells partially from Taxol and, unexpectedly, activated ERK 1/2 kinases. We conclude that the alternative use of ERK1/2 and p38 MAP-kinase pathways may be necessary for the transition from proliferation state to Taxol-induced apoptosis in human ovarian carcinoma cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-92
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1 2001


  • Apoptosis
  • Human ovarian carcinoma
  • MAP-kinase signaling
  • Taxol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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