PURPOSE: We adopted a combinatorial approach with the joint application of γ-tocotrienol and jerantinine A at lower concentrations in order to minimize toxicity towards non-cancerous cells while improving the potency on brain cancer cells.
METHODS: The antiproliferative potency of individual γ-tocotrienol and jerantinine A as well as combined in low-concentration was firstly evaluated on U87MG cancer and MRC5 normal cells. Morphological changes, DNA damage patterns, cell cycle arrests and the effects of individual and combined low-concentration compounds on microtubules were then investigated. Finally, the potential roles of caspase enzymes and apoptosis-related proteins in mediating the apoptotic mechanisms were investigated using apoptosis antibody array, ELISA and Western blotting analysis.
RESULTS: Combinatorial study between γ-tocotrienol at a concentration range (0-24µg/ml) and fixed IC20 concentration of jerantinine A (0.16µg/ml) induced a potent antiproliferative effect on U87MG cells and led to a reduction on the new half maximal inhibitory concentration of γ-tocotrienol (i.e.tIC50=1.29µg/ml) as compared to that of individual γ-tocotrienol (i.e. IC50=3.17µg/ml). A reduction on undesirable toxicity to MRC5 normal cells was also observed. G0/G1 cell cycle arrest was evident on U87MG cells receiving IC50 of individual γ-tocotrienol and combined low-concentration compounds (1.29µg/ml γ-tocotrienol + 0.16µg/ml jerantinine A), whereas, a profound G2/M arrest was evident on cells treated with IC50 of individual jerantinine A. Additionally, individual jerantinine A and combined compounds (except individual γ-tocotrienol) caused a disruption of microtubule networks triggering Fas- and p53-induced apoptosis mediated via the death receptor and mitochondrial pathways.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings demonstrated that the combined use of lower concentrations of γ-tocotrienol and jerantinine A induced potent cytotoxic effects on U87MG cancer cells resulting in a reduction on the required individual concentrations and thereby minimizing toxicity of jerantinine A towards non-cancerous MRC5 cells as well as probably overcoming the high-dose limiting application of γ-tocotrienol. The multi-targeted mechanisms of action of the combination approach have shown a therapeutic potential against brain cancer in vitro and therefore, further in vivo investigations using a suitable animal model should be the way forward.
KEY FINDINGS: T. corymbosa (Roxb. ex Wall.) parts are used as poultice, boiled juice, decoctions and infusions for treatment against ulceration, fracture, post-natal recovery, syphilis, fever, tumours and orchitis in Malaysia, China, Thailand and Bangladesh. Studies recorded alkaloids as the predominant phytochemicals in addition to phenols, saponins and sterols with vast bioactivities such as antimicrobial, analgesic, anthelmintic, vasorelaxation, antiviral and cytotoxicity.
SUMMARY: An evaluation of scientific data and traditional medicine revealed the medicinal uses of different parts of T. corymbosa (Roxb. ex Wall.) across Asia. Future studies exploring the structure-bioactivity relationship of alkaloids such as jerantinine and vincamajicine among others could potentially improve the future application towards reversing anticancer drug resistance.
METHODS: We used a combination of proliferation and apoptosis assays to assess the effect of JB on AML cell lines and patient samples, with BH3 profiling being performed to identify early effects of the drug (4 h). Phosphokinase arrays were adopted to identify potential driver proteins in the cellular response to JB, the results of which were confirmed and extended using western blotting and inhibitor assays and measuring levels of reactive oxygen species.
RESULTS: AML cell growth was significantly impaired following JB exposure in a dose-dependent manner; potent colony inhibition of primary patient cells was also observed. An apoptotic mode of death was demonstrated using Annexin V and upregulation of apoptotic biomarkers (active caspase 3 and cleaved PARP). Using BH3 profiling, JB was shown to prime cells to apoptosis at an early time point (4 h) and phospho-kinase arrays demonstrated this to be associated with a strong upregulation and activation of both total and phosphorylated c-Jun (S63). The mechanism of c-Jun activation was probed and significant induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) was demonstrated which resulted in an increase in the DNA damage response marker γH2AX. This was further verified by the loss of JB-induced C-Jun activation and maintenance of cell viability when using the ROS scavenger N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC).
CONCLUSIONS: This work provides the first evidence of cytotoxicity of JB against AML cells and identifies ROS-induced c-Jun activation as the major mechanism of action.