Repeated H2O2 exposure drives cell cycle progression in an in vitro model of ulcerative colitis

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Abstract

The production of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) drives tumourigenesis in ulcerative colitis (UC). Recently, we showed that H2O2 activates DNA damage checkpoints in human colonic epithelial cells (HCEC) through c-Jun N-terminal Kinases (JNK) that induces p21WAF1. Moreover, caspases circumvented the G1/S and intra-S checkpoints, and cells accumulated in G2/M. The latter observation raised the question of whether repeated H2O2 exposures alter JNK activation, thereby promoting a direct passage of cells from G2/M arrest to driven cell cycle progression. Here, we report that increased proliferation of repeatedly H2O2-exposed HCEC cells (C-cell cultures) was associated with (i) increased phospho-p46 JNK, (ii) decreased total JNK and phospho-p54 JNK and (iii) p21WAF1 down-regulation. Altered JNK activation and p21WAF1 down-regulation were accompanied by defects in maintaining G2/M and mitotic spindle checkpoints through adaptation, as well as by apoptosis resistance following H2O2 exposure. This may cause increased proliferation of C-cell cultures, a defining initiating feature in the inflammation-carcinoma pathway in UC. We further suggest that dysregulated JNK activation is attributed to a non-apoptotic function of caspases, causing checkpoint adaptation in C-cell cultures. Additionally, loss of cell-contact inhibition and the overcoming of senescence, hallmarks of cancer, contributed to increased proliferation. Furthermore, there was evidence that p54 JNK inactivation is responsible for loss of cell-contact inhibition. We present a cellular model of UC and suggest a sinusoidal pattern of proliferation, which is triggered by H2O2-induced reactive oxygen species generation, involving an interplay between JNK activation/inactivation, p21WAF1, c-Fos, c-Jun/phospho-c-Jun, ATF2/phospho-ATF2, β-catenin/TCF4-signalling, c-Myc, CDK6 and Cyclin D2, leading to driven cell cycle progression.

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