Prooxidative Activity of Celastrol Induces Apoptosis, DNA Damage, and Cell Cycle Arrest in Drug-Resistant Human Colon Cancer Cells.
Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2019 ;2019:6793957. Epub 2019 Aug 14. PMID: 31485297
Cancer resistance to chemotherapy is closely related to tumor heterogeneity, i.e., the existence of distinct subpopulations of cancer cells in a tumor mass. An important role is assigned to cancer stem cells (CSCs), a small subset of cancer cells with high tumorigenic potential and capacity of self-renewal and differentiation. These properties of CSCs are sustained by the ability of those cells to maintain a low intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels, via upregulation of ROS scavenging systems. However, the accumulation of ROS over a critical threshold disturbs CSCs-redox homeostasis causing severe cytotoxic consequences. In the present study, we investigated the capacity of celastrol, a natural pentacyclic triterpenoid, to induce the formation of ROS and, consequently, cell death of the colon cancer cells with acquired resistant to cytotoxic drugs (LOVO/DX cell line). LOVO/DX cells express several important stem-like cell features, including a higher frequency of side population (SP) cells, higher expression of multidrug resistant proteins, overexpression of CSC-specific cell surface marker (CD44), increased expression of DNA repair gene (PARP1), and low intracellular ROS level. We found that celastrol, at higher concentrations (above 1 M), significantly increased ROS amount in LOVO/DX cells at both cytoplasmic and mitochondrial levels. This prooxidant activity was associated with the induction of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) and apoptotic/necrotic cell death, as well as with inhibition of cell proliferation by S phase cell cycle arrest. Coincubation with NAC, a ROS scavenger, completely reversed the above effects. In summary, our results provide evidence that celastrol exhibits effective cytotoxic effects via ROS-dependent mechanisms on drug-resistant colon cancer cells. These findings strongly suggest the potential of celastrol to effectively kill cancer stem-like cells, and thus, it is a promising agent to treat severe, resistant to conventional therapy, colon cancers.