Heat Shock Protein 90 (Hsp90) is frequently upregulated in many cancers, and its inhibition simultaneously blocks multiple signaling pathways, resulting in cell differentiation or apoptosis. However, the complexity of Hsp90 in differentiation and its relation with apoptosis have remained unsettled. In this study, we demonstrated that HDN-1, a C-terminal inhibitor of Hsp90, induced the differentiation of HL-60 cells toward apoptosis. HDN-1 induced the differentiation of cells containing mutant AML1-ETO into mature granulocytes, which was related to its selective effect on client proteins of Hsp90. HDN-1 destabilized AML1-ETO and preserved C/EBPβ at the same time, thereby induced a total increase in C/EBPβ levels because of AML1-ETO negative regulation to C/EBPβ expression. Neither HDN-1 nor 17-AAG (an N-terminal inhibitor of Hsp90) led to the differentiation of NB4 cells because mutant PML-RARα was not affected as a client protein of Hsp90; thus, no additional expression of C/EBPβ was induced. 17-AAG did not affect the differentiation of HL-60 cells due to decreased AML1-ETO and C/EBPβ levels. These results indicate that HDN-1 drives cell differentiation toward apoptosis depending on its selective influence on client proteins of Hsp90, establishing the relationship between differentiation and apoptosis and uncovering the mechanism of HDN-1 in promyelocytic leukemia cell differentiation. Moreover, HDN-1 is very promising for the development of anticancer agents with the induction of differentiation.
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