Embelin reduces colitis-associated tumorigenesis through limiting IL-6/STAT3 signaling

Yun Dai, Hongmei Jiao, Guigen Teng, Weihong Wang, Rongxin Zhang, Yunhong Wang, Lionel Hebbard, Jacob George, Liang Qiao
Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 2014, 13 (5): 1206-16
The interleukin-6 (IL-6)/STAT3 signaling regulates survival and proliferation of intestinal epithelial cells and plays an important role in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer. Embelin is a small molecule inhibitor of X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP), with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antitumor activities. We previously showed that embelin inhibits the growth of colon cancer cells in vitro, and effectively suppresses 1,2-dimethylhydrazine dihydrochloride-induced colon carcinogenesis in mice. Here, we explored the antitumor effects and mechanisms of embelin on colitis-associated cancer (CAC) using the azoxymethane/dextran sulfate sodium (AOM/DSS) model, with a particular focus on whether embelin exerts its effect through the IL-6/STAT3 pathway. We found that embelin significantly reduced incidence and tumor size in CAC-bearing mice. In addition to inhibiting proliferation of tumor epithelial cells, embelin suppressed colonic IL-6 expression and secretion, and subsequently STAT3 activation in vivo. Importantly, in vitro studies have revealed that in colon cancer cells, embelin diminished both the constitutive and IL-6-induced STAT3 activation by stimulating Src homology domain 2-containing protein tyrosine phosphatase (SHP2) activity. Moreover, embelin protected mice from AOM/DSS-induced colitis before tumor development. Embelin decreased IL-1β, IL-17a, and IL-23a expression as well as the number of CD4(+) T cells and macrophages infiltrating the colonic tissues. Thus, our findings demonstrated that embelin suppresses CAC tumorigenesis, and its antitumor effect is partly mediated by limiting IL-6/STAT3 activation and Th17 immune response. Embelin may be a potential agent in the prevention and treatment of CAC.

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