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1.  The Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid DHA Induces Simultaneous Apoptosis and Autophagy via Mitochondrial ROS-Mediated Akt-mTOR Signaling in Prostate Cancer Cells Expressing Mutant p53 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:568671.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) induces autophagy-associated apoptotic cell death in wild-type p53 cancer cells via regulation of p53. The present study investigated the effects of DHA on PC3 and DU145 prostate cancer cell lines harboring mutant p53. Results show that, in addition to apoptosis, DHA increased the expression levels of lipidated form LC3B and potently stimulated the autophagic flux, suggesting that DHA induces both autophagy and apoptosis in cancer cells expressing mutant p53. DHA led to the generation of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS), as shown by the mitochondrial ROS-specific probe mitoSOX. Similarly, pretreatment with the antioxidant N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) markedly inhibited both the autophagy and the apoptosis triggered by DHA, indicating that mitochondrial ROS mediate the cytotoxicity of DHA in mutant p53 cells. Further, DHA reduced the levels of phospho-Akt and phospho-mTOR in a concentration-dependent manner, while NAC almost completely blocked that effect. Collectively, these findings present a novel mechanism of ROS-regulated apoptosis and autophagy that involves Akt-mTOR signaling in prostate cancer cells with mutant p53 exposed to DHA.
PMCID: PMC3691929  PMID: 23841076
2.  Autophagy Activation: A Novel Mechanism of Atorvastatin to Protect Mesenchymal Stem Cells from Hypoxia and Serum Deprivation via AMP-Activated Protein Kinase/Mammalian Target of Rapamycin Pathway 
Stem Cells and Development  2012;21(8):1321-1332.
Autophagy is a complex “self-eating” process and could be utilized for cell survival under stresses. Statins, which could reduce apoptosis in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) during both ischemia and hypoxia/serum deprivation (H/SD), have been proved to induce autophagy in some cell lines. We have previously shown that atorvastatin (ATV) could regulate AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a positive modulator of autophagy, in MSCs. Thus, we hypothesized that autophagy activation through AMPK and its downstream molecule mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) may be a novel mechanism of ATV to protect MSCs from apoptosis during H/SD. Here, we demonstrated that H/SD induced autophagy in MSCs significantly as identified by increasing acidic vesicular organelle–positive cells, type II of light chain 3 (LC3-II) expression, and autophagosome formation. The levels of H/SD-induced apoptosis were increased by autophagy inhibitor 3-methyladenine (3-MA) while decreased by rapamycin, an autophagic inducer. ATV further enhanced the autophagic activity observed in MSCs exposed to H/SD. Treatment with 3-MA attenuated ATV-induced autophagy and abrogated the protective effects of ATV on MSC apoptosis, while rapamycin failed to cause additional effects on either autophagy or apoptosis compared with ATV alone. The phosphorylation of AMPK was upregulated whereas the phosphorylation of mTOR was downregulated in ATV-treated MSCs, which were both attenuated by AMPK inhibitor compound C. Further, treatment with compound C reduced the ATV-induced autophagy in MSCs under H/SD. These data suggest that autophagy plays a protective role in H/SD-induced apoptosis of MSCs, and ATV could effectively activate autophagy via AMPK/mTOR pathway to enhance MSC survival during H/SD.
PMCID: PMC3353754  PMID: 22356678
3.  The activation of c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase is required for dihydroartemisinin-induced autophagy in pancreatic cancer cells 
c-Jun NH2-terminal kinases (JNKs) are strongly activated by a stressful cellular environment, such as chemotherapy and oxidative stress. Autophagy is a protein-degradation system in which double-membrane vacuoles called autophagosomes are formed. The autophagy-related gene Beclin 1 plays a key role in this process. We previously found that autophagy was induced by dihydroartemisinin (DHA) in pancreatic cancer cells. However, little is known about the complex relationship between ROS, JNK activation, autophagy induction, and Beclin 1 expression.
Cell viability and CCK-8 assays were carried out to determine the cell proliferation; small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) were used to knockdown c-Jun NH2-terminal kinases (JNK1/2) genes; western blot was performed to detect the protein expression of LC3, JNK, Beclin 1, caspase 3 and β-actin; production of intracellular ROS was analyzed using FACS flow cytometry; autophagy induction was confirmed by electron microscopy.
In the present study, we explored the role of DHA and Beclin 1 expression in autophagy. DHA-treated cells showed autophagy characteristics, and DHA also activated the JNK pathway and up-regulated the expression of Beclin 1. Conversely, blocking JNK signaling inhibited Beclin 1 up-regulation. JNK activation was found to primarily depend on reactive oxygen species (ROS) resulting from the DHA treatment. Moreover, JNK pathway inhibition and Beclin 1 silencing prevented the induction of DHA-induced autophagy.
These results suggest that the induction of autophagy by DHA is required for JNK-mediated Beclin 1 expression.
PMCID: PMC3901759  PMID: 24438216
c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase; Beclin 1; Apoptosis; LC3; Autophagy; Pancreatic cancer; Dihydroartemisinin
4.  Cardioprotection by resveratrol: a novel mechanism via autophagy involving the mTORC2 pathway 
Cardiovascular Research  2009;86(1):103-112.
On the basis of our previous reports that cardioprotection induced by ischaemic preconditioning induces autophagy and that resveratrol, a polyphenolic antioxidant present in grapes and red wine induces preconditioning-like effects, we sought to determine if resveratrol could induce autophagy.
Methods and results
Resveratrol at lower doses (0.1 and 1 µM in H9c2 cardiac myoblast cells and 2.5 mg/kg/day in rats) induced cardiac autophagy shown by enhanced formation of autophagosomes and its component LC3-II after hypoxia–reoxygenation or ischaemia–reperfusion. The autophagy was attenuated with the higher dose of resveratrol. The induction of autophagy was correlated with enhanced cell survival and decreased apoptosis. Treatment with rapamycin (100 nM), a known inducer of autophagy, did not further increase autophagy compared with resveratrol alone. Autophagic inhibitors, wortmannin (2 µM) and 3-methyladenine (10 mM), significantly attenuated the resveratrol-induced autophagy and induced cell death. The activation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) was differentially regulated by low-dose resveratrol, i.e. the phosphorylation of mTOR at serine 2448 was inhibited, whereas the phosphorylation of mTOR at serine 2481 was increased, which was attenuated with a higher dose of resveratrol. Although resveratrol attenuated the activation of mTOR complex 1, low-dose resveratrol significantly induced the expression of Rictor, a component of mTOR complex 2, and activated its downstream survival kinase Akt (Ser 473). Resveratrol-induced Rictor was found to bind with mTOR. Furthermore, treatment with Rictor siRNA attenuated the resveratrol-induced autophagy.
Our results indicate that at lower dose, resveratrol-mediated cell survival is, in part, mediated through the induction of autophagy involving the mTOR-Rictor survival pathway.
PMCID: PMC2836260  PMID: 19959541
Autophagy; Cell survival; Rictor; mTOR; Resveratrol; Cardioprotection
5.  Rottlerin-induced autophagy leads to the apoptosis in breast cancer stem cells: molecular mechanisms 
Molecular Cancer  2013;12:171.
Autophagy is an indispensable lysosomal self-digestion process involved in the degradation of aggregated proteins and damaged organelles. Autophagy is associated with the several pathological processes, including cancer. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) play significant roles in cancer initiation, progression and drug resistance. Recent studies have demonstrated the antitumor activities of plant-derived chemopreventive agent rottlerin (Rott). However, the molecular mechanism by which Rott induces autophagy in breast CSCs has not been investigated.
The objectives of this study were to examine the molecular mechanism by which Rott induces autophagy which leads to apoptosis in breast CSCs. Treatment of breast CSCs with Rott for 24 h resulted in a concentration dependent induction of autophagy, followed by apoptosis as measured by flow cytometry. Electron microscopy confirmed the presence of autophagosomes in Rott treated breast CSCs. Western blot analysis showed that Rott treatment increased the expression of LC3, Beclin-1 and Atg12 that are accumulated during autophagy. Prolonged exposure of breast CSCs to Rott caused apoptosis which was associated with the suppression of phosphorylated Akt and mTOR, upregulation of phosphorylated AMPK, and downregulation of anti-apoptosis Bcl-2, Bcl-XL, XIAP and cIAP-1. Knock-down of Atg7 or Beclin-1 by shRNA inhibited Rott-induced autophagy at 24 h. Our study also demonstrates that pre-treatment of breast CSCs with autophagosome inhibitors 3-methyladenine and Bafilomycin, as well as protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide inhibited Rott-induced autophagy and apoptosis. Rott induces autophagy via extensive cytoplasmic vacuolization in breast CSCs. Molecular docking results between C2-domain of protein kinase C-delta and Rott indicated that both hydrogen bonding and hydrophobic interactions contributed significantly for ligand binding with minimum binding affinity of ≈ 7.5 Kcal/mol. Although, autophagy inhibitors suppress the formation of cytoplasmic vacuolization and autophagy in breast CSCs, the potency of Rott to induce autophagy and apoptosis might be based on its capability to activate several pathways such as AMPK and proteasome inhibition.
A better understanding of the relationship between autophagy and apoptosis would eventually allow us to discover novel drugs for the treatment of breast cancer by eliminating CSCs.
PMCID: PMC3914415  PMID: 24359639
3-methyladenine (3-MA); Autophagy; Bafilomycin (Baf); Beclin-1; Cycloheximide (CHX); LC3; AMPK; Atg12
6.  Insulin receptor substrate-1 prevents autophagy-dependent cell death caused by oxidative stress in mouse NIH/3T3 cells 
Insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-1 is associated with tumorigenesis; its levels are elevated in several human cancers. IRS-1 protein binds to several oncogene proteins. Oxidative stress and reactive oxygen species (ROS) are involved in the initiation and progression of cancers. Cancer cells produce greater levels of ROS than normal cells do because of increased metabolic stresses. However, excessive production of ROS kills cancer cells. Autophagy usually serves as a survival mechanism in response to stress conditions, but excessive induction of autophagy results in cell death. In addition to inducing necrosis and apoptosis, ROS induces autophagic cell death. ROS inactivates IRS-1 mediated signaling and reduces intracellular IRS-1 concentrations. Thus, there is a complex relationship between IRS-1, ROS, autophagy, and cancer. It is not fully understood how cancer cells grow rapidly and survive in the presence of high ROS levels.
Methods and results
In this study, we established mouse NIH/3T3 cells that overexpressed IRS-1, so mimicking cancers with increased IRS-1 expression levels; we found that the IRS-1 overexpressing cells grow more rapidly than control cells do. Treatment of cells with glucose oxidase (GO) provided a continuous source of ROS; low dosages of GO promoted cell growth, while high doses induced cell death. Evidence for GO induced autophagy includes increased levels of isoform B-II microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3), aggregation of green fluorescence protein-tagged LC3, and increased numbers of autophagic vacuoles in cells. Overexpression of IRS-1 resulted in inhibition of basal autophagy, and reduced oxidative stress-induced autophagy and cell death. ROS decreased the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)/p70 ribosomal protein S6 kinase signaling, while overexpression of IRS-1 attenuated this inhibition. Knockdown of autophagy-related gene 5 inhibited basal autophagy and diminished oxidative stress-induced autophagy and cell death.
Our results suggest that overexpression of IRS-1 promotes cells growth, inhibits basal autophagy, reduces oxidative stress-induced autophagy, and diminishes oxidative stress-mediated autophagy-dependent cell death. ROS-mediated autophagy may occur via inhibition of IRS-1/phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/mTOR signaling. Our data afford a plausible explanation for IRS-1 involvement in tumor initiation and progression.
PMCID: PMC3430578  PMID: 22788551
Insulin receptor substrate; Oxidative stress; Autophagy; Cell death; Cancer; Mammalian target of rapamycin; p70 ribosomal protein S6 kinase; Reactive oxygen species; Glucose oxidase
7.  Mimulone-Induced Autophagy through p53-Mediated AMPK/mTOR Pathway Increases Caspase-Mediated Apoptotic Cell Death in A549 Human Lung Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114607.
Anticancer properties and mechanisms of mimulone (MML), C-geranylflavonoid isolated from the Paulownia tomentosa fruits, were firstly elucidated in this study. MML prevented cell proliferation in a dose- and time-dependent way and triggered apoptosis through the extrinsic pathway in A549 human lung adenocarcinoma cells. Furthermore, MML-treated cells displayed autophagic features, such as the formation of autophagic vacuoles, a primary morphological feature of autophagy, and the accumulation of microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3) puncta, another typical maker of autophagy, as determined by FITC-conjugated immunostaining and monodansylcadaverine (MDC) staining, respectively. The expression levels of LC3-I and LC3-II, specific markers of autophagy, were also augmented by MML treatment. Autophagy inhibition by 3-methyladenine (3-MA), pharmacological autophagy inhibitor, and shRNA knockdown of Beclin-1 reduced apoptotic cell death induced by MML. Autophagic flux was not significantly affected by MML treatment and lysosomal inhibitor, chloroquine (CQ) suppressed MML-induced autophagy and apoptosis. MML-induced autophagy was promoted by decreases in p53 and p-mTOR levels and increase of p-AMPK. Moreover, inhibition of p53 transactivation by pifithrin-α (PFT-α) and knockdown of p53 enhanced induction of autophagy and finally promoted apoptotic cell death. Overall, the results demonstrate that autophagy contributes to the cytotoxicity of MML in cancer cells harboring wild-type p53. This study strongly suggests that MML is a potential candidate for an anticancer agent targeting both autophagy and apoptotic cell death in human lung cancer. Moreover, co-treatment of MML and p53 inhibitor would be more effective in human lung cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC4260910  PMID: 25490748
8.  Docosahexaenoic acid-induced unfolded protein response, cell cycle arrest, and apoptosis in vascular smooth muscle cells are triggered by Ca2+-dependent induction of oxidative stress 
Free Radical Biology & Medicine  2012;52(9):1786-1795.
Proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells is a characteristic of pathological vascular remodeling and represents a significant therapeutic challenge in several cardiovascular diseases. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a member of the n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, was shown to inhibit proliferation of numerous cell types, implicating several different mechanisms. In this study we examined the molecular events underlying the inhibitory effects of DHA on proliferation of primary human smooth muscle cells isolated from small pulmonary artery (hPASMCs). DHA concentration-dependently inhibited hPASMC proliferation, induced G1 cell cycle arrest, and decreased cyclin D1 protein expression. DHA activated the unfolded protein response (UPR), evidenced by increased mRNA expression of HSPA5, increased phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor 2α, and splicing of X-box binding protein 1. DHA altered cellular lipid composition and led to increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. DHA-induced ROS were dependent on both intracellular Ca2+ release and entry of extracellular Ca2+. Overall cellular ROS and mitochondrial ROS were decreased by RU360, a specific inhibitor of mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake. DHA-induced mitochondrial dysfunction was evidenced by decreased mitochondrial membrane potential and decreased cellular ATP content. DHA triggered apoptosis as found by increased numbers of cleaved caspase-3- and TUNEL-positive cells. The free radical scavenger Tempol counteracted DHA-induced ROS, cell cycle arrest, induction of UPR, and apoptosis. We conclude that Ca2+-dependent oxidative stress is the central and initial event responsible for induction of UPR, cell cycle arrest, and apoptosis in DHA-treated hPASMCs.
► DHA induces ROS production, cell cycle arrest, UPR and apoptosis in hPASMC. ► Ca2+ and mitochondria are required for DHA-mediated induction of ROS. ► DHA alters cellular lipid composition and decreases ΔΨm and cellular ATP content. ► Free radical scavenger Tempol counteracts DHA effects in hPASMC.
PMCID: PMC3482662  PMID: 22391221
ATF6, activating transcription factor 6; DHA, docosahexaenoic acid; ΔΨm, mitochondrial membrane potential; eIF2α, eukaryotic initiation factor 2α; ER, endoplasmic reticulum; FCS, fetal calf serum; hPASMC, human pulmonary artery smooth muscle cell; HSPA5, heat shock 70-kDa protein 5; IRE1α, inositol-requiring enzyme 1α; n-3 PUFA, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid; PERK, protein kinase RNA-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase; PC, phosphatidylcholine; PE, phosphatidylethanolamine; PTP, permeability transition pore; ROS, reactive oxygen species; TG, triglyceride; UPR, unfolded protein response; XBP-1, X-box binding protein 1; Oxidative stress; Unfolded protein response; n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid; Apoptosis; Mitochondria; Cell cycle; Free radicals
9.  Acrolein-derived DNA adduct formation in human colon cancer cells: its role in apoptosis induction by docosahexaenoic acid 
Chemical research in toxicology  2009;22(5):798-806.
The apoptotic effects of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and other ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been documented in cell and animal studies. The molecular mechanism by which DHA induces apoptosis is unclear. Although there is no direct evidence, some studies have suggested that DNA damage generated through lipid peroxidation may be involved. Our previous studies showed that DHA, because it is high degree of unsaturation, can give rise to the acrolein-derived 1,N2-propanodeoxyguanosine (Acr-dG) as a major class of DNA adducts via lipid oxidation. As a first step to investigate the possible role of oxidative DNA damage in apoptosis induced by DHA, we examined the relationships between oxidative DNA damage and apoptosis caused by DHA in human colon cancer HT-29 cells. The apoptosis and oxidative DNA damage, including Acr-dG and 8-oxo-deoxyguanosine (8-oxo-dG) formation, in cells treated with DHA and ω-6 PUFAs, including arachidonic acid (AA) and linoleic acid (LA), were measured. DHA induced apoptosis in a dose- and time-dependent manner with a concentration range from 0 to 300 µM as indicated by increased caspase-3 activity and PARP cleavage. In contrast, AA and LA had little or no effect at these concentrations. The Acr-dG levels were increased in HT-29 cells treated with DHA at 240 and 300µM, and the increases were correlated with the induction of apoptosis at these concentrations, while no significant changes were observed for 8-oxo-dG. Because proteins may compete with DNA to react with Acr, we then examined the effects of BSA on the DHA induced apoptosis and oxidative DNA damage. The addition of BSA to HT-29 cell culture media significantly decreases Acr-dG levels with a concomitant decrease in the apoptosis induced by DHA. The reduced Acr-dG formation is attributed to the reaction of BSA with acrolein as indicated by increased levels of total protein carbonyls. Similar correlations between Acr-dG formation and apoptosis were observed in HT-29 cells directly incubated with 0 to 200µM of acrolein. Additionally, DHA treatment increased level of DNA strand breaks and caused cell cycle arrested at G1 phase. Taken together, these results demonstrate the parallel relationships between the Acr-dG level and apoptosis in HT-29 cells, suggesting that the formation of Acr-dG in cellular DNA may contribute to apoptosis induced by DHA.
PMCID: PMC2683896  PMID: 19341237
polyunsaturated fatty acids; apoptosis; chemoprevention; colon cancer; docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); arachidonic acid (AA); linoleic (LA); acrolein; 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal; cyclic deoxyguanosine adducts; oxidative DNA damage; 32P-postlabeling
10.  Targeting autophagy overcomes Enzalutamide resistance in castration-resistant prostate cancer cells and improves therapeutic response in a xenograft model 
Oncogene  2014;33(36):4521-4530.
Macro-autophagy is associated with drug resistance in various cancers and can function as an adaptive response to maintain cell survival under metabolic stresses, including androgen deprivation. Androgen deprivation or treatment with androgen receptor (AR) signaling inhibitor (ARSI), Enzalutamide (MDV-3100, ENZA) or bicalutamide induced autophagy in androgen-dependent and in castration-resistant CaP (castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC)) cell lines. The autophagic cascade triggered by AR blockage, correlated with the increased light chain 3-II/I ratio and ATG-5 expression. Autophagy was observed in a subpopulation of C4-2B cells that developed insensitivity to ENZA after sustained exposure in culture. Using flow cytometry and clonogenic assays, we showed that inhibiting autophagy with clomipramine (CMI), chloroquine or metformin increased apoptosis and significantly impaired cell viability. This autophagic process was mediated by AMP-dependent protein kinase (AMPK) activation and the suppression of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) through Raptor phosphorylation (Serine 792). Furthermore, small interfering RNA targeting AMPK significantly inhibited autophagy and promoted cell death in CaP cells acutely or chronically exposed to ENZA or androgen deprivation, suggesting that autophagy is an important survival mechanism in CRPC. Lastly, in vivo studies with mice orthotopically implanted with ENZA-resistant cells demonstrated that the combination of ENZA and autophagy modulators, CMI or metformin significantly reduced tumor growth when compared with control groups (P<0.005). In conclusion, autophagy is as an important mechanism of resistance to ARSI in CRPC. Antiandrogen-induced autophagy is mediated through the activation of AMPK pathway and the suppression of mTOR pathway. Blocking autophagy pharmacologically or genetically significantly impairs prostate cancer cell survival in vitro and in vivo, implying the therapeutics potential of autophagy inhibitors in the antiandrogen-resistance setting.
PMCID: PMC4155805  PMID: 24662833
11.  Effects of increasing docosahexaenoic acid intake in human healthy volunteers on lymphocyte activation and monocyte apoptosis 
The British Journal of Nutrition  2008;101(6):852-858.
Dietary intake of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) has been reported to decrease several markers of lymphocyte activation and modulate monocyte susceptibility to apoptosis. However most human studies examined the combined effect of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) using relatively high daily amounts of n-3 PUFA. The present study investigated the effects of increasing doses of DHA added to the regular diet of human healthy volunteers on lymphocyte response to tetradecanoylphorbol acetate (TPA) plus ionomycin activation, and on monocyte apoptosis induced by oxidized LDL (oxLDL). Eight subjects were supplemented with increasing daily doses of DHA (200, 400, 800 and 1600mg) in a triacylglycerol form containing DHA as the only PUFA, for two weeks each dose. DHA intake dose-dependently increased the proportion of DHA in mononuclear cell phospholipids, the augmentation being significant after 400mg DHA/day. The TPA plus ionomycin-stimulated IL-2 mRNA level started to increase after ingestion of 400mg DHA/day, with a maximum after 800mg intake, and was positively correlated (P<0.003) with DHA enrichment in cell phospholipids. The treatment of monocytes by oxLDL before DHA supplementation drastically reduced mitochondrial membrane potential as compared with native LDL treatment. OxLDL apoptotic effect was significantly attenuated after 400mg DHA/day and the protective effect was maintained throughout the experiment, although to a lesser extent at higher doses. The present results show that supplementation of the human diet with low DHA dosages improves lymphocyte activability. It also increases monocyte resistance to oxLDL-induced apoptosis, which may be beneficial in the prevention of atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC2685418  PMID: 18710607
DHA enrichment; interleukin-2; mitochondrial membrane potential; oxidized LDL
12.  A synergistic antiproliferation effect of curcumin and docosahexaenoic acid in SK-BR-3 breast cancer cells: unique signaling not explained by the effects of either compound alone 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:149.
Breast cancer is a collection of diseases in which molecular phenotypes can act as both indicators and mediators of therapeutic strategy. Therefore, candidate therapeutics must be assessed in the context of multiple cell lines with known molecular phenotypes. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and curcumin (CCM) are dietary compounds known to antagonize breast cancer cell proliferation. We report that these compounds in combination exert a variable antiproliferative effect across multiple breast cell lines, which is synergistic in SK-BR-3 cells and triggers cell signaling events not predicted by the activity of either compound alone.
Dose response curves for CCM and DHA were generated for five breast cell lines. Effects of the DHA+ CCM combination on cell proliferation were evaluated using varying concentrations, at a fixed ratio, of CCM and DHA based on their individual ED50. Detection of synergy was performed using nonlinear regression of a sigmoid dose response model and Combination Index approaches. Cell molecular network responses were investigated through whole genome microarray analysis of transcript level changes. Gene expression results were validated by RT-PCR, and western blot analysis was performed for potential signaling mediators. Cellular curcumin uptake, with and without DHA, was analyzed via flow cytometry and HPLC.
CCM+DHA had an antiproliferative effect in SK-BR-3, MDA-MB-231, MDA-MB-361, MCF7 and MCF10AT cells. The effect was synergistic for SK-BR-3 (ER- PR- Her2+) relative to the two compounds individually. A whole genome microarray approach was used to investigate changes in gene expression for the synergistic effects of CCM+DHA in SK-BR-3 cells lines. CCM+DHA triggered transcript-level responses, in disease-relevant functional categories, that were largely non-overlapping with changes caused by CCM or DHA individually. Genes involved in cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, inhibition of metastasis, and cell adhesion were upregulated, whereas genes involved in cancer development and progression, metastasis, and cell cycle progression were downregulated. Cellular pools of PPARγ and phospho-p53 were increased by CCM+DHA relative to either compound alone. DHA enhanced cellular uptake of CCM in SK-BR-3 cells without significantly enhancing CCM uptake in other cell lines.
The combination of DHA and CCM is potentially a dietary supplemental treatment for some breast cancers, likely dependent upon molecular phenotype. DHA enhancement of cellular curcumin uptake is one potential mechanism for observed synergy in SK-BR-3 cells; however, transcriptomic data show that the antiproliferation synergy accompanies many signaling events unique to the combined presence of the two compounds.
PMCID: PMC3111403  PMID: 21510869
13.  Activation of Focal Adhesion Kinase by Salmonella Suppresses Autophagy via an Akt/mTOR Signaling Pathway and Promotes Bacterial Survival in Macrophages 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(6):e1004159.
Autophagy has emerged as an important antimicrobial host defense mechanism that not only orchestrates the systemic immune response, but also functions in a cell autonomous manner to directly eliminate invading pathogens. Pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella have evolved adaptations to protect themselves from autophagic elimination. Here we show that signaling through the non-receptor tyrosine kinase focal adhesion kinase (FAK) is actively manipulated by the Salmonella SPI-2 system in macrophages to promote intracellular survival. In wild-type macrophages, FAK is recruited to the surface of the Salmonella-containing vacuole (SCV), leading to amplified signaling through the Akt-mTOR axis and inhibition of the autophagic response. In FAK-deficient macrophages, Akt/mTOR signaling is attenuated and autophagic capture of intracellular bacteria is enhanced, resulting in reduced bacterial survival. We further demonstrate that enhanced autophagy in FAK−/− macrophages requires the activity of Atg5 and ULK1 in a process that is distinct from LC3-assisted phagocytosis (LAP). In vivo, selective knockout of FAK in macrophages resulted in more rapid clearance of bacteria from tissues after oral infection with S. typhimurium. Clearance was correlated with reduced infiltration of inflammatory cell types into infected tissues and reduced tissue damage. Together, these data demonstrate that FAK is specifically targeted by S. typhimurium as a novel means of suppressing autophagy in macrophages, thereby enhancing their intracellular survival.
Author Summary
Salmonella enterica is a food- and water-borne pathogen that has evolved closely with vertebrate hosts. Two medically relevant serovars include S. typhimurium, which causes gastroenteritis and S. typhi, which is the causative agent of typhoid fever. Host cells can utilize a process called autophagy, normally involved in the elimination of defective proteins and organelles, to capture and degrade intracellular pathogens. Enteric Salmonella express numerous virulence factors that enable the bacterium to subvert host defense mechanisms. Here we report that Salmonella specifically activates the host molecule focal adhesion kinase (FAK) in macrophages, triggering a signaling cascade that suppresses the autophagic elimination of intracellular bacteria. A key regulator of autophagy in mammalian cells is the target of rapamycin, mTOR, which transmits inhibitory signals that downregulate the autophagic response. We show that Salmonella-induced FAK activation leads to the Akt-dependent activation of mTOR, thereby repressing autophagic signaling. Inhibition of autophagy results in increased bacterial survival, while in FAK-deficient cells, autophagy is enhanced and intracellular Salmonella are eliminated. We also show that in mice lacking macrophage-specific FAK, animals were less susceptible to oral Salmonella infection. Together, these data identify FAK as a novel regulator of autophagy in macrophages with broad implications for host survival.
PMCID: PMC4047085  PMID: 24901456
14.  Docosahexaenoic acid-induced apoptosis is mediated by activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases in human cancer cells 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:481.
The role of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω3-PUFAs) in cancer prevention has been demonstrated; however, the exact molecular mechanisms underlying the anticancer activity of ω3-PUFAs are not fully understood. Here, we investigated the relationship between the anticancer action of a specific ω3-PUFA docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and the conventional mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) including extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), c-JUN N-terminal kinase (JNK) and p38 whose dysregulation has been implicated in human cancers.
MTT assays were carried out to determine cell viability of cancer cell lines (PA-1, H1299, D54MG and SiHa) from different origins. Apoptosis was confirmed by TUNEL staining, DNA fragmentation analysis and caspase activity assays. Activities of the conventional MAPKs were monitored by their phosphorylation levels using immunoblotting and immunocytochemistry analysis. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) production was measured by flow cytometry and microscopy using fluorescent probes for general ROS and mitochondrial superoxide.
DHA treatment decreased cell viability and induced apoptotic cell death in all four studied cell lines. DHA-induced apoptosis was coupled to the activation of the conventional MAPKs, and knockdown of ERK/JNK/p38 by small interfering RNAs reduced the apoptosis induced by DHA, indicating that the pro-apoptotic effect of DHA is mediated by MAPKs activation. Further study revealed that the DHA-induced MAPKs activation and apoptosis was associated with mitochondrial ROS overproduction and malfunction, and that ROS inhibition remarkably reversed these effects of DHA.
Together, these results indicate that DHA-induced MAPKs activation is dependent on its capacity to provoke mitochondrial ROS generation, and accounts for its cytotoxic effect in human cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC4094407  PMID: 24993937
Docosahexaenoic acid; Reactive oxygen species; Mitogen-activated protein kinases; Apoptosis; Cancer
15.  Stimulation of Autophagy Improves Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress–Induced Diabetes 
Diabetes  2013;62(4):1227-1237.
Accumulation of misfolded proinsulin in the β-cell leads to dysfunction induced by endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, with diabetes as a consequence. Autophagy helps cellular adaptation to stress via clearance of misfolded proteins and damaged organelles. We studied the effects of proinsulin misfolding on autophagy and the impact of stimulating autophagy on diabetes progression in Akita mice, which carry a mutation in proinsulin, leading to its severe misfolding. Treatment of female diabetic Akita mice with rapamycin improved diabetes, increased pancreatic insulin content, and prevented β-cell apoptosis. In vitro, autophagic flux was increased in Akita β-cells. Treatment with rapamycin further stimulated autophagy, evidenced by increased autophagosome formation and enhancement of autophagosome–lysosome fusion. This was associated with attenuation of cellular stress and apoptosis. The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) kinase inhibitor Torin1 mimicked the rapamycin effects on autophagy and stress, indicating that the beneficial effects of rapamycin are indeed mediated via inhibition of mTOR. Finally, inhibition of autophagy exacerbated stress and abolished the anti-ER stress effects of rapamycin. In conclusion, rapamycin reduces ER stress induced by accumulation of misfolded proinsulin, thereby improving diabetes and preventing β-cell apoptosis. The beneficial effects of rapamycin in this context strictly depend on autophagy; therefore, stimulating autophagy may become a therapeutic approach for diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3609555  PMID: 23274896
16.  Benzyl Isothiocyanate Causes FoxO1-Mediated Autophagic Death in Human Breast Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32597.
Benzyl isothiocyanate (BITC), a constituent of edible cruciferous vegetables, inhibits growth of breast cancer cells but the mechanisms underlying growth inhibitory effect of BITC are not fully understood. Here, we demonstrate that BITC treatment causes FoxO1-mediated autophagic death in cultured human breast cancer cells. The BITC-treated breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231, MCF-7, MDA-MB-468, BT-474, and BRI-JM04) and MDA-MB-231 xenografts from BITC-treated mice exhibited several features characteristic of autophagy, including appearance of double-membrane vacuoles (transmission electron microscopy) and acidic vesicular organelles (acridine orange staining), cleavage of microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3), and/or suppression of p62 (p62/SQSTM1 or sequestosome 1) expression. On the other hand, a normal human mammary epithelial cell line (MCF-10A) was resistant to BITC-induced autophagy. BITC-mediated inhibition of MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 cell viability was partially but statistically significantly attenuated in the presence of autophagy inhibitors 3-methyl adenine and bafilomycin A1. Stable overexpression of Mn-superoxide dismutase, which was fully protective against apoptosis, conferred only partial protection against BITC-induced autophagy. BITC treatment decreased phosphorylation of mTOR and its downstream targets (P70s6k and 4E-BP1) in cultured MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 cells and MDA-MB-231 xenografts, but activation of mTOR by transient overexpression of its positive regulator Rheb failed to confer protection against BITC-induced autophagy. Autophagy induction by BITC was associated with increased expression and acetylation of FoxO1. Furthermore, autophagy induction and cell growth inhibition resulting from BITC exposure were significantly attenuated by small interfering RNA knockdown of FoxO1. In conclusion, the present study provides novel insights into the molecular circuitry of BITC-induced cell death involving FoxO1-mediated autophagy.
PMCID: PMC3310839  PMID: 22457718
17.  The inhibitory effect of dibutyryl cyclic AMP on docosahexaenoic acid-induced apoptosis in HL-60 cells through activation of the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase pathway 
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is known as a chemopreventive substance for cancers. Previously we reported that DHA induces apoptosis in HL-60 cells. The aim of this study was to clarify the role of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3-kinase)/Akt signaling during DHA-induced apoptosis in HL-60 cells.
The inhibitory effects of dibutyryl cAMP (db-cAMP) or LY294002 (a specific inhibitor of the PI3-kinase/Akt pathway) on DHA-induced apoptosis in HL-60 cells were evaluated by the appearance of apoptosis, and from the activities of caspases (3 and 8), the phospholylation of Akt, and cleavage of Bid using DNA indexes, emzymatic measurement of fragmented substrates, and Western blotting, respectively.
The pre-incubation of db-cAMP reduced the activation of caspasses (3 and 8) during the occurrence of DHA-induced apoptosis in HL-60. However, the inhibition of PI3-kinase/Akt signaling by LY294002 resulted in recovery of the caspases’ activities, appearance of apoptotic cells, and cleavage of the Bid molecule when LY294002 was co-treated with db-cAMP before the occurrence of DHA-induced apoptosis in HL-60. It was also confirmed that LY294002 strongly inhibited phospholylation of Akt during db-cAMP induced-reduction of DHA-induced apoptosis in HL-60.
We demonstrated that DHA-induced apoptosis was sensitive to the modulation of PI3-kinase activity by treatment with db-cAMP or LY294002. These results may provide new insights into the mechanisms of the anti-cancer activity of DHA.
PMCID: PMC2723312  PMID: 21432138
docosahexaenoic acid; HL-60 cells; apoptosis; phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase pathway; Akt
18.  Docosahexaenoic Acid Protects Muscle Cells from Palmitate-Induced Atrophy 
ISRN Obesity  2012;2012:647348.
Background. Accumulation of free fatty acids leads to lipid-toxicity-associated skeletal muscle atrophy. Palmitate treatment reduces myoblast and myotube growth and causes apoptosis in vitro. It is not known if omega-3 fatty acids will protect muscle cells against palmitate toxicity. Therefore, we examined the effects of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on skeletal muscle growth. Methods. Mouse myoblasts (C2C12) were differentiated to myotubes, and then treated with 0 or 0.5 mM palmitic acid or 0 or 0.1 mM DHA. Results. Intramyocellular lipid was increased in palmitate-treated cells but was prevented by DHA-palmitate cotreatment. Total AMPK increased in DHA+ palmitate-treated compared to palmitate only cells. RpS6 phosphorylation decreased after palmitate (−55%) and this was blunted by DHA+ palmitate (−35%) treatment. Palmitate treatment decreased PGC1α protein expression by 69%, but was increased 165% with DHA+ palmitate (P = 0.017) versus palmitate alone. While palmitate induced 25% and 90% atrophy in myotubes (after 48 hours and 96 hours, resp.), DHA+ palmitate treatment caused myotube hypertrophy of ~50% and 100% after 48 and 96 hours, respectively. Conclusion. These data show that DHA is protective against palmitate-induced atrophy. Although DHA did not activate the AMPK pathway, DHA treatment restored growth-signaling (i.e., rpS6) and rescued palmitate-induced muscle atrophy.
PMCID: PMC3914282  PMID: 24533207
19.  mTOR inhibition increases cell viability via autophagy induction during endoplasmic reticulum stress – An experimental and modeling study 
FEBS Open Bio  2014;4:704-713.
•We examine the interplay of mTOR and unfolded protein response in the control of cell survival and cell death.•There is a mutual exclusion between the survival and self-killing mechanisms during ER stress.•Metyrapone has similar effect to rapamycin in promoting autophagy.•An increase in autophagy by mTOR inhibition can delay cell death via feedback loops.•The main role of mTOR is to suppress autophagy-dependent survival during intolerable ER stress.
Unfolded or misfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) trigger an adaptive ER stress response known as unfolded protein response (UPR). Depending on the severity of ER stress, either autophagy-controlled survival or apoptotic cell death can be induced. The molecular mechanisms by which UPR controls multiple fate decisions have started to emerge. One such molecular mechanism involves a master regulator of cell growth, mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), which paradoxically is shown to have pro-apoptotic role by mutually interacting with ER stress response. How the interconnections between UPR and mTOR influence the dynamics of autophagy and apoptosis activation is still unclear. Here we make an attempt to explore this problem by using experiments and mathematical modeling. The effect of perturbed mTOR activity in ER stressed cells was studied on autophagy and cell viability by using agents causing mTOR pathway inhibition (such as rapamycin or metyrapone). We observed that mTOR inhibition led to an increase in cell viability and was accompanied by an increase in autophagic activity. It was also shown that autophagy was activated under conditions of severe ER stress but that in the latter phase of stress it was inhibited at the time of apoptosis activation. Our mathematical model shows that both the activation threshold and temporal dynamics of autophagy and apoptosis inducers are sensitive to variation in mTOR activity. These results confirm that autophagy has cytoprotective role and is activated in mutually exclusive manner with respect to ER stress levels.
PMCID: PMC4141208  PMID: 25161878
ER, endoplasmic reticulum; mTOR, mammalian target of rapamycin; UPR, unfolded protein response; Autophagy; Apoptosis; Endoplasmic reticulum stress; Metyrapone; Unfolded protein response; mTOR
20.  Autophagy Pathway Is Required for IL-6 Induced Neuroendocrine Differentiation and Chemoresistance of Prostate Cancer LNCaP Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88556.
Prostate cancer (PCa) cells undergoing neuroendocrine differentiation (NED) are clinically relevant to the development of relapsed castration-resistant PCa. Increasing evidences show that autophagy involves in the development of neuroendocrine (NE) tumors, including PCa. To clarify the effect of autophagy on NED, androgen-sensitive PCa LNCaP cells were examined. Treatment of LNCaP cells with IL-6 resulted in an induction of autophagy. In the absence of androgen, IL-6 caused an even stronger activation of autophagy. Similar result was identified in NED induction. Inhibition of autophagy with chloroquine (CQ) markedly decreased NED. This observation was confirmed by beclin1 and Atg5 silencing experiments. Further supporting the role of autophagy in NED, we found that LC3 was up-regulated in PCa tissue that had relapsed after androgen-deprivation therapy when compared with their primary tumor counterpart. LC3 staining in relapsed PCa tissue showed punctate pattern similar to the staining of chromogranin A (CgA), a marker for NED cells. Moreover, autophagy inhibition induced the apoptosis of IL-6 induced NE differentiated PCa cells. Consistently, inhibition of autophagy by knockdown of beclin1 or Atg5 sensitized NE differentiated LNCaP cells to etoposide, a chemotherapy drug. To identify the mechanisms, phosphorylation of IL-6 downstream targets was analyzed. An increase in phospho-AMPK and a decrease in phospho-mTOR were found, which implies that IL-6 regulates autophagy through the AMPK/mTOR pathway. Most important to this study is the discovery of REST, a neuronal gene-specific transcriptional repressor that is involved in autophagy activation. REST was down-regulated in IL-6 treatment. Knockdown experiments suggest that REST is critical to NED and autophagy activation by IL-6. Together, our studies imply that autophagy is involved in PCa progression and plays a cytoprotective role when NED is induced in PCa cells by IL-6 treatment. These results reveal the potential of targeting autophagy as part of a combined therapeutic regime for NE tumors.
PMCID: PMC3925144  PMID: 24551118
21.  Inhibition of mTOR-Dependent Autophagy Sensitizes Leukemic Cells to Cytarabine-Induced Apoptotic Death 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94374.
The present study investigated the role of autophagy, a cellular self-digestion process, in the cytotoxicity of antileukemic drug cytarabine towards human leukemic cell lines (REH, HL-60, MOLT-4) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells from leukemic patients. The induction of autophagy was confirmed by acridine orange staining of intracellular acidic vesicles, electron microscopy visualization of autophagic vacuoles, as well as by the increase in autophagic proteolysis and autophagic flux, demonstrated by immunoblot analysis of p62 downregulation and LC3-I conversion to autophagosome-associated LC3-II in the presence of proteolysis inhibitors, respectively. Moreover, the expression of autophagy-related genes Atg4, Atg5 and Atg7 was stimulated by cytarabine in REH cells. Cytarabine reduced the phosphorylation of the major negative regulator of autophagy, mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), and its downstream target p70S6 kinase in REH cells, which was associated with downregulation of mTOR activator Akt and activation of extracellular signal- regulated kinase. Cytarabine had no effect on the activation of mTOR inhibitor AMP-activated protein kinase. Leucine, an mTOR activator, reduced both cytarabine-induced autophagy and cytotoxicity. Accordingly, pharmacological downregulation of autophagy with bafilomycin A1 and chloroquine, or RNA interference-mediated knockdown of LC3β or p62, markedly increased oxidative stress, mitochondrial depolarization, caspase activation and subsequent DNA fragmentation and apoptotic death in cytarabine-treated REH cells. Cytarabine also induced mTOR-dependent cytoprotective autophagy in HL-60 and MOLT-4 leukemic cell lines, as well as primary leukemic cells, but not normal leukocytes. These data suggest that the therapeutic efficiency of cytarabine in leukemic patients could be increased by the inhibition of the mTOR-dependent autophagic response.
PMCID: PMC3979773  PMID: 24714637
22.  Mechanism of Growth Inhibition of Human Cancer Cells by Conjugated Eicosapentaenoic Acid, an Inhibitor of DNA Polymerase and Topoisomerase 
DNA topoisomerases (topos) and DNA polymerases (pols) are involved in many aspects of DNA metabolism such as replication reactions. We found that long chain unsaturated fatty acids such as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) (i.e., eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)) inhibited the activities of eukaryotic pols and topos in vitro, and the inhibitory effect of conjugated fatty acids converted from EPA and DHA (cEPA and cDHA) on pols and topos was stronger than that of normal EPA and DHA. cEPA and cDHA did not affect the activities of plant and prokaryotic pols or other DNA metabolic enzymes tested. cEPA was a stronger inhibitor than cDHA with IC50 values for mammalian pols and human topos of 11.0 – 31.8 and 0.5 – 2.5 μM, respectively. cEPA inhibited the proliferation of two human leukemia cell lines, NALM-6, which is a p53-wild type, and HL-60, which is a p53-null mutant, and the inhibitory effect was stronger than that of normal EPA. In both cell lines, cEPA arrested in the G1 phase, and increased cyclin E protein levels, indicating that it blocks the primary step of in vivo DNA replication by inhibiting the activity of replicative pols rather than topos. DNA replication-related proteins, such as RPA70, ATR and phosphorylated-Chk1/2, were increased by cEPA treatment in the cell lines, suggesting that cEPA led to DNA replication fork stress inhibiting the activities of pols and topos, and the ATR-dependent DNA damage response pathway could respond to the inhibitor of DNA replication. The compound induced cell apoptosis through both p53-dependent and p53-independent pathways in cell lines NALM-6 and HL-60, respectively. These results suggested the therapeutic potential of conjugated PUFA, such as cEPA, as a leading anti-cancer compound that inhibited pols and topos activities.
PMCID: PMC3871801
conjugated eicosapentaenoic acid (cEPA); DNA polymerase; DNA topoisomerase; enzyme inhibitor; DNA replication; cell proliferation; cell cycle arrest; p53; apoptosis
23.  Bufalin Induces the Interplay between Apoptosis and Autophagy in Glioma Cells through Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress 
Malignant gliomas are common primary tumors of the central nervous system. The prognosis of patients with malignant glioma is poor in spite of current intensive therapy and thus novel therapeutic modalities are necessary. Bufalin is the major component of Chan-Su (a traditional Chinese medicine) extracts from the venom of Bufo gargarizan. In this study, we evaluated the growth inhibitory effect of bufalin on glioma cells and explored the underlying molecular mechanisms. Our results showed that bufalin inhibited the growth of glioma cells significantly. Mechanistic studies demonstrated that bufalin induced apoptosis through mitochondrial apoptotic pathway. In addition, bufalin was also found to induce ER stress-mediated apoptosis, which was supported by the up- regulation of ER stress markers, CHOP and GRP78, and augmented phosphorylation of PERK and eIF2α as well as cleavage of caspase-4. Downregulation of CHOP using siCHOP RNA attenuated bufalin-induced apoptosis, further confirming the role of ER stress response in mediating bufalin-induced apoptosis. Evidence of bufalin-induced autophagy included formation of the acidic vesicular organelles, increase of autophagolysosomes and LC3-II accumulation. Further experiments showed that the mechanism of bufalin-induced autophagy associated with ATP deleption involved an increase in the active form of AMPK, decreased phosphorylation levels of mTOR and its downstream targets 4EBP1 and p70S6K1. Furthermore, TUDC and silencing of eIF2α or CHOP partially blocked bufalin-induced accumulation of LC3-II, which indicated that ER stress preceded bufalin-induced autophagy and PERK/eIF2α/CHOP signaling pathway played a major part in the process. Blockage of autophagy increased expression of ER stress associated proteins and the ratio of apoptosis, indicating that autophagy played a cytoprotective role in bufalin induced ER stress and cell death. In conclusion, bufalin inhibits glioma cell growth and induces interplay between apoptosis and autophagy through endoplasmic reticulum stress. It will provide molecular bases for developing bufalin into a drug candidate for the treatment of maglinant glioma.
PMCID: PMC3927133  PMID: 24550689
ER stress; autophagy; apoptosis; bufalin; glioma cancer.
24.  Antiproliferative Effect of Dihydroxyacetone on Trypanosoma brucei Bloodstream Forms: Cell Cycle Progression, Subcellular Alterations, and Cell Death▿  
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2007;51(11):3960-3968.
We evaluated the effects of dihydroxyacetone (DHA) on Trypanosoma brucei bloodstream forms. DHA is considered an energy source for many different cell types. T. brucei takes up DHA readily due to the presence of aquaglyceroporins. However, the parasite is unable to use it as a carbon source because of the absence of DHA kinase (DHAK). We could not find a homolog of the relevant gene in the genomic database of T. brucei and have been unable to detect DHAK activity in cell lysates of the parasite, and the parasite died quickly if DHA was the sole energy source in the medium. In addition, during trypanosome cultivation, DHA induced growth inhibition with a 50% inhibitory concentration of about 1 mM, a concentration that is completely innocuous to mammals. DHA caused cell cycle arrest in the G2/M phase of up to 70% at a concentration of 2 mM. Also, DHA-treated parasites showed profound ultrastructural alterations, including an increase of vesicular structures within the cytosol and the presence of multivesicular bodies, myelin-like structures, and autophagy-like vacuoles, as well as a marked disorder of the characteristic mitochondrion structure. Based on the toxicity of DHA for trypanosomes compared with mammals, we consider DHA a starting point for a rational design of new trypanocidal drugs.
PMCID: PMC2151456  PMID: 17682096
25.  Docosahexaenoic Acid Induces Apoptosis in MCF-7 Cells In Vitro and In Vivo via Reactive Oxygen Species Formation and Caspase 8 Activation 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10296.
The present study sought to further investigate the in vitro and in vivo anticancer effects of a representative omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), with a focus on assessing the induction of oxidative stress and apoptosis as an important mechanism for its anticancer actions.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In vitro studies showed that DHA strongly reduces the viability and DNA synthesis of MCF-7 human breast cancer cells in culture, and also promotes cell death via apoptosis. Mechanistically, accumulation of reactive oxygen species and activation of caspase 8 contribute critically to the induction of apoptotic cell death. Co-presence of antioxidants or selective inhibition or knockdown of caspase 8 each effectively abrogates the cytotoxic effect of DHA. Using athymic nude mice as an in vivo model, we found that feeding animals the 5% fish oil-supplemented diet for 6 weeks significantly reduces the growth of MCF-7 human breast cancer cells in vivo through inhibition of cancer cell proliferation as well as promotion of cell death. Using 3-nitrotyrosine as a parameter, we confirmed that the fish oil-supplemented diet significantly increases oxidative stress in tumor cells in vivo. Analysis of fatty acid content in plasma and tissues showed that feeding animals a 5% fish oil diet increases the levels of DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid in both normal and tumorous mammary tissues by 329% and 300%, respectively.
DHA can strongly induce apoptosis in human MCF-7 breast cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo. The induction of apoptosis in these cells is selectively mediated via caspase 8 activation. These observations call for further studies to assess the effectiveness of fish oil as a dietary supplement in the prevention and treatment of human breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC2858652  PMID: 20421971

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