Rottlerin induces autophagy which leads to apoptotic cell death through inhibition of PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway in human pancreatic cancer stem cells

Brahma N Singh, Dhruv Kumar, Sharmila Shankar, Rakesh K Srivastava
Biochemical Pharmacology 2012 November 1, 84 (9): 1154-63
Multiple lines of evidence support the idea that autophagy plays an essential role in the development of drug resistance, self-renewal, differentiation, and tumorigenic potentials of cancer stem cells (CSCs). Rottlerin (ROT) is widely used as a protein kinase C-delta (PKC-δ) inhibitor. Recent studies revealed that ROT induces apoptosis through engagement of mitochondria. However, it is not known whether ROT-induced apoptosis is associated with other mechanisms such as autophagy. Here we found that ROT induced autophagy followed by induction of apoptosis via inhibition of PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway and activation of caspase cascade in human pancreatic CSCs. ROT induced a dose- and time-dependent inhibition of cell survival and induction of cytoplasmic vacuolations. The conversion of microtubule-associated protein LC3-I to LC3-II, and increased accumulations of Atg7 and Beclin-1 were also observed in CSCs treated with ROT. Prolonged exposure of CSCs to ROT eventually caused apoptosis which was associated with the suppression of phosphorylated Akt (Ser473) and mTOR (Ser2448), downregulation of XIAP, cIAP-1, Bcl-2 and Bcl-X(L), induction of Bax, activation of caspase-3 and -9, and concomitant degradation of PARP. ROT-induced apoptosis was enhanced by dominant negative AKT, Akt1/2 inhibitor, and rapamycin. Our study also demonstrates that gene silencing of Atg7 and Beclin1, or cotreatment of the autophagosome inhibitor, 3-methyladenine, inhibited ROT-induced autophagy and accelerated ROT-induced apoptosis. The knockdown of PKC-δ did not block ROT-induced autophagy and cell death, suggesting these effects of ROT were exerted through PKC-δ-independent pathway. In summary, our data demonstrate that ROT can induce autophagy which leads to cell death in pancreatic CSCs.

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