Disruption of mitochondrial electron transport chain function potentiates the pro-apoptotic effects of MAPK inhibition

Andrew P. Trotta, Jesse D. Gelles, Madhavika N. Serasinghe, Patrick Loi, Jack L. Arbiser, Jerry E. Chipuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


The mitochondrial network is a major site of ATP production through the coupled integration of the electron transport chain (ETC) with oxidative phosphorylation. In melanoma arising from the V600E mutation in the kinase v-RAF murine sarcoma viral oncogene homolog B (BRAFV600E), oncogenic signaling enhances glucose-dependent metabolism while reducing mitochondrial ATP production. Likewise, when BRAFV600E is phar-macologically inhibited by targeted therapies (e.g. PLX-4032/ vemurafenib), glucose metabolism is reduced, and cells increase mitochondrial ATP production to sustain survival. Therefore, collateral inhibition of oncogenic signaling and mitochondrial respiration may help enhance the therapeutic benefit of targeted therapies. Honokiol (HKL) is a well tolerated small molecule that disrupts mitochondrial function; however, its underlying mechanisms and potential utility with targeted anticancer therapies remain unknown. Using wild-type BRAF and BRAFV600E melanoma model systems, we demonstrate here that HKL administration rapidly reduces mitochondrial respiration by broadly inhibiting ETC complexes I, II, and V, resulting in decreased ATP levels. The subsequent energetic crisis induced two cellular responses involving cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs). First, loss of CDK1-mediated phosphorylation of the mitochondrial division GTPase dynamin-related protein 1 promoted mitochondrial fusion, thus coupling mitochondrial energetic status and morphology. Second, HKL decreased CDK2 activity, leading to G1 cell cycle arrest. Importantly, although pharmacological inhibition of oncogenic MAPK signaling increased ETC activity, co-treatment with HKL ablated this response and vastly enhanced the rate of apoptosis. Collectively, these findings integrate HKL action with mitochondrial respiration and shape and substantiate a pro-survival role of mitochondrial function in melanoma cells after oncogenic MAPK inhibition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11727-11739
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number28
StatePublished - 14 Jul 2017


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