Some anti-cancer drugs, including those that alter microtubule dynamics target mitotic cells and induce apoptosis in some cell types. However, such drugs elicit protective responses in other cell types allowing cells to escape from drug-induced mitotic inhibition. Cells with a faulty protective mechanism undergo defective mitosis, leading to genome instability. Brd4 is a double bromodomain protein that remains on chromosomes during mitosis. However, Brd4 is released from mitotic chromosomes when cells are exposed to anti-mitotic drugs including nocodazole. Neither the mechanisms, nor the biological significance of drug-induced Brd4 release has been fully understood. We found that deletion of the internal C-terminal region abolished nocodazole induced Brd4 release from mouse P19 cells. Furthermore, cells expressing truncated Brd4, unable to dissociate from chromosomes were blocked from mitotic progression and failed to complete cell division. We also found that pharmacological and peptide inhibitors of the c-jun-N-terminal kinases (JNK) pathway, but not inhibitors of other MAP kinases, prevented release of Brd4 from chromosomes. The JNK inhibitor that blocked Brd4 release also blocked mitotic progression. Further supporting the role of JNK in Brd4 release, JNK2-/- embryonic fibroblasts were defective in Brd4 release and sustained greater inhibition of cell growth after nocodazole treatment. In sum, activation of JNK pathway triggers release of Brd4 from chromosomes upon nocodazole treatment, which mediates a protective response designed to minimize drug-induced mitotic stress.
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