p38α blockade inhibits colorectal cancer growth in vivo by inducing a switch from HIF1α- to FoxO-dependent transcription

F. Chiacchiera, A. Matrone, E. Ferrari, G. Ingravallo, G. Lo Sasso, S. Murzilli, M. Petruzzelli, L. Salvatore, A. Moschetta, C. Simone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Colorectal cancer cell (CRC) fate is governed by an intricate network of signaling pathways, some of which are the direct target of DNA mutations, whereas others are functionally deregulated. As a consequence, cells acquire the ability to grow under nutrients and oxygen shortage conditions. We earlier reported that p38α activity is necessary for proliferation and survival of CRCs in a cell type-specific manner and regardless of their phenotype and genotype. Here, we show that p38α sustains the expression of HIF1α target genes encoding for glycolytic rate-limiting enzymes, and that its inhibition causes a drastic decrease in ATP intracellular levels in CRCs. Prolonged inactivation of p38α triggers AMPK-dependent nuclear localization of FoxO3A and subsequent activation of its target genes, leading to autophagy, cell cycle arrest and cell death. In vivo, pharmacological blockade of p38α inhibits CRC growth in xenografted nude mice and azoxymethane-treated ApcMin mice, achieving both a cytostatic and cytotoxic effect, associated with high nuclear expression of FoxO3A and increased expression of its target genes p21 and PTEN. Hence, inhibition of p38α affects the aerobic glycolytic metabolism specific of cancer cells and might be taken advantage of as a therapeutic strategy targeted against CRCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1203-1214
Number of pages12
JournalCell Death and Differentiation
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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