JOURNAL ARTICLE

Apigenin induces apoptosis through proteasomal degradation of HER2/neu in HER2/neu-overexpressing breast cancer cells via the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt-dependent pathway

Tzong-Der Way, Ming-Ching Kao, Jen-Kun Lin
Journal of Biological Chemistry 2004 February 6, 279 (6): 4479-89
14602723
Apigenin is a low toxicity and non-mutagenic phytopolyphenol and protein kinase inhibitor. It exhibits anti-proliferating effects on human breast cancer cells. Here we examined several human breast cancer cell lines having different levels of HER2/neu expression and found that apigenin exhibited potent growth-inhibitory activity in HER2/neu-overexpressing breast cancer cells but was much less effective for those cells expressing basal levels of HER2/neu. Induction of apoptosis was also observed in HER2/neu-overexpressing breast cancer cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner. However, the one or more molecular mechanisms of apigenin-induced apoptosis in HER2/neu-overexpressing breast cancer cells remained to be elucidated. A cell survival pathway involving phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), and Akt is known to play an important role in inhibiting apoptosis in response to HER2/neu-overexpressing breast cancer cells, which prompted us to investigate whether this pathway plays a role in apigenin-induced apoptosis in HER2/neu-overexpressing breast cancer cells. Our results showed that apigenin inhibits Akt function in tumor cells in a complex manner. First, apigenin directly inhibited the PI3K activity while indirectly inhibiting the Akt kinase activity. Second, inhibition of HER2/neu autophosphorylation and transphosphorylation resulting from depleting HER2/neu protein in vivo was also observed. In addition, apigenin inhibited Akt kinase activity by preventing the docking of PI3K to HER2/HER3 heterodimers. Therefore, we proposed that apigenin-induced cellular effects result from loss of HER2/neu and HER3 expression with subsequent inactivation of PI3K and AKT in cells that are dependent on this pathway for cell proliferation and inhibition of apoptosis. This implies that the inhibition of the HER2/HER3 heterodimer function provided an especially effective strategy for blocking the HER2/neu-mediated transformation of breast cancer cells. Our results also demonstrated that apigenin dissociated the complex of HER2/neu and GRP94 that preceded the depletion of HER2/neu. Apigenin-induced degradation of mature HER2/neu involves polyubiquitination of HER2/neu and subsequent hydrolysis by the proteasome.

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