Pancratistatin Selectively Targets Cancer Cell Mitochondria and Reduces Growth of Human Colon Tumor Xenografts
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The naturally occurring Amaryllidaceae alkaloid pancratistatin exhibits potent apoptotic activity against a large panel of cancer cells lines and has an insignificant effect on noncancerous cell lines, although with an elusive cellular target. Many current chemotherapeutics induce apoptosis via genotoxic mechanisms and thus have low selectivity. The observed selectivity of pancratistatin for cancer cells promoted us to consider the hypothesis that this alkaloid targets cancer cell mitochondria rather than DNA or its replicative machinery. In this study, we report that pancratistatin decreased mitochondrial membrane potential and induced apoptotic nuclear morphology in p53-mutant (HT-29) and wild-type p53 (HCT116) colorectal carcinoma cell lines, but not in noncancerous colon fibroblast (CCD-18Co) cells. Interestingly, pancratistatin was found to be ineffective against mtDNA-depleted (ρ(0)) cancer cells. Moreover, pancratistatin induced cell death in a manner independent of Bax and caspase activation, and did not alter β-tubulin polymerization rate nor cause double-stranded DNA breaks. For the first time we report the efficacy of pancratistatin in vivo against human colorectal adenocarcinoma xenografts. Intratumor administration of pancratistatin (3 mg/kg) caused significant reduction in the growth of subcutaneous HT-29 tumors in Nu/Nu mice (n = 6), with no apparent toxicity to the liver or kidneys as indicated by histopathologic analysis and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling. Altogether, this work suggests that pancratistatin may be a novel mitochondria-targeting compound that selectively induces apoptosis in cancer cells and significantly reduces tumor growth.
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