SB365 inhibits angiogenesis and induces apoptosis of hepatocellular carcinoma through modulation of PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway

Sang-Won Hong, Kyung Hee Jung, Hee-Seung Lee, Myung-Joo Choi, Mi Kwon Son, Hong-Mei Zheng, Soon-Sun Hong
Cancer Science 2012, 103 (11): 1929-37
Identification of small molecules that safely inhibit cancer progression is critical for cancer therapeutics. Saponins exhibit cytostatic and cytotoxic activity against various cancer cells, but the mechanism is not well understood. Here, we investigated whether saponin D (designated SB365), an active component isolated from Pulsatilla koreana, could inhibit the progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and considered its mechanism. SB365 strongly suppressed the growth of HCC cells in a dose-dependent manner and induced apoptosis by increasing the proportion of sub G1 apoptotic cells from 8% to 21% through induction of expression of Bax and cleaved caspase-3. In addition, SB365 exhibited potent anti-angiogenic activity and decreased the expression of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) and vascular endothelial growth factor, a key molecule for angiogenesis. Furthermore, SB365 suppressed the tube formation and migration of HUVEC, as well as in vivo neovascularization in a mouse Matrigel plug assay. In vivo study showed that SB365 significantly inhibited tumor growth in an HCC xenograft model, inducing apoptosis by increasing the expression of the cleaved caspase-3 and DNA fragmentation. The expressions of vascular endothelial growth factor and CD34 in the tumor tissue were decreased by SB365 treatment. In examining its mechanism, SB365 was found to effectively suppress the phosphorylation of PI3K downstream factors, such as Akt, mTOR and p70S6K both in vitro and in vivo. Our study demonstrates that SB365 not only induces apoptosis but also inhibits cell growth and angiogenesis through modulation of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway in human HCC. We suggest that SB365 may be a new chemotherapeutic candidate against HCC.

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