Arsenic antagonizes the Hedgehog pathway by preventing ciliary accumulation and reducing stability of the Gli2 transcriptional effector

Jynho Kim, John J. Lee, James Kim, Dale Gardner, Philip A. Beachy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

192 Scopus citations


Aberrant Hedgehog (Hh) pathway activation has been implicated in cancers of diverse tissues and organs, and the tumor growth-inhibiting effects of pathway antagonists in animal models have stimulated efforts to develop pathway antagonists for human therapeutic purposes. These efforts have focused largely on cyclopamine derivatives or other compounds that mimic cyclopamine action in binding to and antagonizing Smoothened, a membrane transductory component. We report here that arsenicals, in contrast, antagonize the Hh pathway by targeting Gli transcriptional effectors; in the short term, arsenic blocks Hh-induced ciliary accumulation of Gli2, the primary activator of Hh-dependent transcription, and with prolonged incubation arsenic reduces steady-state levels of Gli2. Arsenicals active in Hh pathway antagonism include arsenic trioxide (ATO), a curative agent in clinical use for acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL); in our studies, ATO inhibited growth of Hh pathway-driven medulloblastoma allografts derived from Ptch+/-p53-/- mice within a range of serum levels comparable to those achieved in treatment of human APL. Arsenic thus could be tested rapidly as a therapeutic agent in malignant diseases associated with Hh pathway activation and could be particularly useful in such diseases that are inherently resistant or have acquired resistance to cyclopamine mimics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13432-13437
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number30
StatePublished - Jul 27 2010



  • Arsenic trioxide
  • Cancer
  • Hedgehog antagonist
  • Primary cilium
  • Smoothened

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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