Targeting Polo-Like Kinase 1 Enhances Radiation Efficacy for Head-and-Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Kate Gerster, Wei Shi, Benjamin Ng, Shijun Yue, Emma Ito, John Waldron, Ralph Gilbert, Fei Fei Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: To investigate the efficacy of targeting polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1) combined with ionizing radiotherapy (RT) for head-and-neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Methods and Materials: Polo-like kinase 1 messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) was targeted by small interfering RNA (siRNA) transfection into the FaDu HNSCC cell line; reduction was confirmed using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. The cellular effects were assessed using [3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-5-(3-carboxymethoxyphenyl)-2-(4-sulfophenyl)-2H-tetrazolium], clonogenic, flow cytometric, and caspase assays. In vivo efficacy of siPlk1 was evaluated using mouse xenograft models. Results: Small interfering Plk1 significantly decreased Plk1 mRNA expression, while also increasing cyclin B1 and p21(Waf1/CIP1) mRNA levels after 24 h. This depletion resulted in a time-dependent increase in FaDu cytotoxicity, which was enhanced by the addition of RT. Flow cytometric and caspase assays demonstrated progressive apoptosis, DNA double-strand breaks (γ-H2AX), G2/M arrest, and activation of caspases 3 and 7. Implantation of siPlk1-treated FaDu cells in severe combined immunodeficient mice delayed tumor formation, and systemic administration of siPlk1 inhibited tumor growth enhanced by RT. Conclusions: These data demonstrate the suitability of Plk1 as a potential therapeutic target for HNSCC, because Plk1 depletion resulted in significant cytotoxicity in vitro and abrogated tumor-forming potential in vivo. The effects of Plk1 depletion were enhanced with the addition of RT, indicating that Plk1 represents an important potential radiation sensitizer for HNSCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-260
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Head-and-neck squamous cell carcinoma
  • Plk1
  • Radiation
  • Small interfering RNA


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