Picropodophyllin (PPP) is an anticancer drug undergoing clinical development in NSCLC. PPP has been shown to suppress IGF-1R signaling and to induce a G2/M cell cycle phase arrest but the exact mechanisms remain to be elucidated. The present study identified an IGF-1-independent mechanism of PPP leading to pro-metaphase arrest. The mitotic block was induced in human cancer cell lines and in an A549 xenograft mouse but did not occur in normal hepatocytes/mouse tissues. Cell cycle arrest by PPP occurred in vitro and in vivo accompanied by prominent CDK1 activation, and was IGF-1R-independent since it occurred also in IGF-1R-depleted and null cells. The tumor cells were not arrested in G2/M but in mitosis. Centrosome separation was prevented during mitotic entry, resulting in a monopolar mitotic spindle with subsequent prometaphase-arrest, independent of Plk1/Aurora A or Eg5, and leading to cell features of mitotic catastrophe. PPP also increased soluble tubulin and decreased spindle-associated tubulin within minutes, indicating that it interfered with microtubule dynamics. These results provide a novel IGF-1R-independent mechanism of antitumor effects of PPP.
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