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Korean J Physiol Pharmacol 2014; 18(2): 109-120

Published online April 28, 2014

Copyright © Korean J Physiol Pharmacol.

Multiple Effects of a Novel Epothilone Analog on Cellular Processes and Signaling Pathways Regulated by Rac1 GTPase in the Human Breast Cancer Cells

Hong Zhang, Fan An, Li Tang, and Rongguo Qiu

Research Center for Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Chemical, Environmental and Biological Science and Technology, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian 116023, China

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The epothilones are a class of microtubule inhibitors that exhibit a strong antitumor activity. UTD2 is a novel epothilone analog generated by genetic manipulation of the polyketide biosynthetic gene cluster. This study investigated the effects of UTD2 on the actin cytoskeleton and its critical regulators, and the signaling pathways which are essential for cell motility, growth and survival in MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Results showed that UTD2 inhibited the cellular functions of actin cytoskeleton, such as wound-closure, migration and invasion, as well as adhesion. Our study further demonstrated that UTD2 suppressed Rac1 GTPase activation and reduced the activity of PAK1, which is a downstream effector of Rac1, while the activity of Cdc42 was not affected. Additionally, the phosphorylation of p38 and ERK were significantly inhibited, but the phosphorylation of JNK remained the same after UTD2 treatment. Moreover, UTD2 inhibited the activity and mRNA expression of MMP-2, which plays a key role in cell motility. UTD2 also reduced the phosphorylation of Akt, which is an important signaling kinase regulating the cell survival through Rac1. Furthermore, UTD2 interrupted the synergy between Rac1 and Raf in focus formation assays. Taken together, these results indicated that UTD2 exerted multiple effects on the actin cytoskeleton and signaling pathways associated with Rac1. This study provided novel insights into the molecular mechanism of the antineoplastic and antimetastatic activities of epothilones. Our findings also suggest that the signaling pathways regulated by Rac1 may be evaluated as biomarkers for the response to therapy in clinical trials of epothilones.

Keywords: Actin cytoskeleton, Epothilone, Rac1 GTPase signaling, UTD2