β-Elemene induces apoptosis in human renal-cell carcinoma 786-0 cells through inhibition of MAPK/ERK and PI3K/Akt/ mTOR signalling pathways

Yun-Hong Zhan, Jing Liu, Xiu-Juan Qu, Ke-Zuo Hou, Ke-Feng Wang, Yun-Peng Liu, Bin Wu
Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention: APJCP 2012, 13 (6): 2739-44

BACKGROUND: Renal-cell carcinoma (RCC) is resistant to almost all chemotherapeutics and radiation therapy. β-Elemene, a promising anticancer drug extracted from a traditional Chinese medicine, has been shown to be effective against various tumors. In the present study, anti-tumor effects on RCC cells and the involved mechanisms were investigated.

METHODS: Human RCC 786-0 cells were treated with different concentrations of β-elemene, and cell viability and apoptosis were measured by 3-(4, 5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2, 5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay and flow cytometry, respectively. Protein expression was assayed by western blotting. Autophagy was evaluated by transmission electron microscopy.

RESULTS: β-Elemene inhibited the viability of 786-0 cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner. The anti-tumor effect was associated with induction of apoptosis. Further study showed that β-elemene inhibited the MAPK/ERK as well as PI3K/Akt/mTOR signalling pathways. Moreover, robust autophagy was observed in cells treated with β-elemene. Combined treatment of β-elemene with autophagy inhibitors 3-methyladenine or chlorochine significantly enhanced the anti-tumor effects.

CONCLUSIONS: Our data provide first evidence that β-elemene can inhibit the proliferation of RCC 786- 0 cells by inducing apoptosis as well as protective autophagy. The anti-tumor effect was associated with the inhibition of MAPK/ERK and PI3K/Akt/mTOR signalling pathway. Inhibition of autophagy might be a useful way to enhance the anti-tumor effect of β -elemene on 786-0 cells.

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