The flavonolignan silibinin potentiates TRAIL-induced apoptosis in human colon adenocarcinoma and in derived TRAIL-resistant metastatic cells

Henriette Kauntz, Souad Bousserouel, Francine Gossé, Francis Raul
Apoptosis: An International Journal on Programmed Cell Death 2012, 17 (8): 797-809
Silibinin, a flavonolignan, is the major active component of the milk thistle plant (Silybum marianum) and has been shown to possess anti-neoplastic properties. TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is a promising anti-cancer agent which selectively induces apoptosis in cancer cells. However, resistance to TRAIL-induced apoptosis is an important and frequent problem in cancer treatment. In this study, we investigated the effect of silibinin and TRAIL in an in vitro model of human colon cancer progression, consisting of primary colon tumor cells (SW480) and their derived TRAIL-resistant metastatic cells (SW620). We showed by flow cytometry that silibinin and TRAIL synergistically induced cell death in the two cell lines. Up-regulation of death receptor 4 (DR4) and DR5 by silibinin was shown by RT-PCR and by flow cytometry. Human recombinant DR5/Fc chimera protein that has a dominant-negative effect by competing with the endogenous receptors abrogated cell death induced by silibinin and TRAIL, demonstrating the activation of the death receptor pathway. Synergistic activation of caspase-3, -8, and -9 by silibinin and TRAIL was shown by colorimetric assays. When caspase inhibitors were used, cell death was blocked. Furthermore, silibinin and TRAIL potentiated activation of the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway and down-regulated the anti-apoptotic proteins Mcl-1 and XIAP. The involvement of XIAP in sensitization of the two cell lines to TRAIL was demonstrated using the XIAP inhibitor embelin. These findings demonstrate the synergistic action of silibinin and TRAIL, suggesting chemopreventive and therapeutic potential which should be further explored.

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