Normal cells, but not cancer cells, survive severe Plk1 depletion

Xiaoqi Liu, Ming Lei, Raymond L. Erikson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

274 Scopus citations


We previously reported the phenotype of depletion of polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1) using RNA interference (RNAi) and showed that p53 is stabilized in Plk1-depleted cancer cells. In this study, we further analyzed the Plk1 depletion-induced phenotype in both cancer cells and primary cells. The vector-based RNAi approach was used to evaluate the role of the p53 pathway in Plk1 depletion-induced apoptosis in cancer cells with different p53 backgrounds. Although DNA damage and cell death can occur independently of p53, p53-deficient cancer cells were much more sensitive to Plk1 depletion than cancer cells with functional p53. Next, the lentivirus-based RNAi approach was used to generate a series of Plk1 hypomorphs. In HeLa cells, two weak hypomorphs showed only slight G2/M arrest, a medium hypomorph arrested with 4N DNA content, followed later by apoptosis, and a strong Plk1 hypomorph underwent serious mitotic catastrophe. In well-synchronized HeLa cells, a medium level of Plk1 depletion caused a 2-h delay of mitotic progression, and a high degree of Plk1 depletion significantly delayed mitotic entry and completely blocked cells at mitosis. In striking contrast, normal hTERT-RPE1 and MCF10A cells were much less sensitive to Plk1 depletion than HeLa cells; no apparent cell proliferation defect or cell cycle arrest was observed after Plk1 depletion in these cells. Therefore, these data further support suggestions that Plk1 may be a feasible cancer therapy target.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2093-2108
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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