Surfactin induces apoptosis in human breast cancer MCF-7 cells through a ROS/JNK-mediated mitochondrial/caspase pathway

Xiao-hong Cao, Ai-hua Wang, Chun-ling Wang, De-zhi Mao, Mei-fang Lu, Yun-qian Cui, Run-zhi Jiao
Chemico-biological Interactions 2010 February 12, 183 (3): 357-62
Surfactin has been known to inhibit proliferation and induce apoptosis in cancer cells. However, the molecular mechanisms involved in surfactin-induced apoptosis remain poorly understood. The present study was undertaken to elucidate the underlying network of signaling events in surfactin-induced apoptosis of human breast cancer MCF-7 cells. In this study, surfactin caused reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and the surfactin-induced cell death was prevented by antioxidants N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and catalase, suggesting involvement of ROS generation in surfactin-induced cell death. Surfactin induced a sustained activation of the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and JNK, but not p38. Moreover, surfactin-induced cell death was reversed by PD98059 (an inhibitor of ERK1/2) and SP600125 (an inhibitor of JNK), but not by SB203580 (an inhibitor of p38). However, the phosphorylation of JNK rather than ERK1/2 activation by surfactin was blocked by NAC/catalase. These results suggest that the action of surfactin on MCF-7 cells was via ERK1/2 and JNK, but not via p38, and the ERK1/2 and JNK activation induce apoptosis through two independent signaling mechanisms. Surfactin triggered the mitochondrial/caspase apoptotic pathway indicated by enhanced Bax-to-Bcl-2 expression ratio, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, cytochrome c release, and caspase cascade reaction. The NAC and SP600125 blocked these events induced by surfactin. Moreover, the general caspase inhibitor z-VAD-FMK inhibited the caspase-6 activity and exerted the protective effect against the surfactin-induced cell death. Taken together, these findings suggest that the surfactin induces apoptosis through a ROS/JNK-mediated mitochondrial/caspase pathway.

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