Reactive Oxygen Species-Mediated Autophagy by Ursolic Acid Inhibits Growth and Metastasis of Esophageal Cancer Cells.
Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Dec 10 ;21(24). Epub 2020 Dec 10. PMID: 33321911
Ursolic acid (UA) possesses various pharmacological activities, such as antitumorigenic and anti-inflammatory effects. In the present study, we investigated the mechanisms underlying the effects of UA against esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) (TE-8 cells and TE-12 cells). The cell viability assay showed that UA decreased the viability of ESCC in a dose-dependent manner. In the soft agar colony formation assay, the colony numbers and size were reduced in a dose-dependent manner after UA treatment. UA caused the accumulation of vacuoles and LC3 puncta, a marker of autophagosome, in a dose-dependent manner. Autophagy induction was confirmed by measuring the expression levels of LC3 and p62 protein in ESCC cells. UA increased LC3-II protein levels and decreased p62 levels in ESCC cells. When autophagy was hampered using 3-methyladenine (3-MA), the effect of UA on cell viability was reversed. UA also significantly inhibited protein kinase B (Akt) activation and increased p-Akt expression in a dose-dependent manner in ESCC cells. Accumulated LC3 puncta by UA was reversed after wortmannin treatment. LC3-II protein levels were also decreased after treatment with Akt inhibitor and wortmannin. Moreover, UA treatment increased cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels in ESCC in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Diphenyleneiodonium (an ROS production inhibitor) blocked the ROS and UA induced accumulation of LC3-II levels in ESCC cells, suggesting that UA-induced cell death and autophagy are mediated by ROS. Therefore, our data indicate that UA inhibits the growth of ESCC cells by inducing ROS-dependent autophagy.