Malignant gliomas are the most common and lethal intracranial tumors, and differentiation therapy shows great potential to be a promising candidate for their treatment. Here, we have elaborated that a PKA activator, forskolin, represses cell growth via cell cycle arrest in the G0/G1 phase and induces cell differentiation characteristic with elongated processes and restoration of GFAP expression. In mechanisms, we verified that forskolin significantly diminishes the mRNA and protein level of a key cell cycle regulator cyclin D1, and maintenance of low cyclin D1 expression level was required for forskolin-induced proliferation inhibition and differentiation by gain and loss of function approaches. In addition, that forskolin down-regulated the cyclin D1 by proteolytic (post-transcriptional) mechanisms was dependent on GSK-3β activation at Ser9. The pro-differentiation activity of forskolin and related molecular mechanisms imply that forskolin can be developed into a candidate for the future in differentiation therapy of glioma, and cyclin D1 is a promising target for pro-differentiation strategy. J. Cell. Biochem. 112: 2241–2249, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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