1. SeaLife Pharma GmbH, Technopark 1, A-3430 Tulln, Austria;
2. Division of Chemistry of Renewables, Department of Chemistry, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Konrad Lorenz Straße 24, A-3430 Tulln, Austria.
*These authors contributed equally to this work.
Background: Malignant melanoma is an aggressive type of skin cancer with high risk for metastasis and chemoresistance. Disruption of tightly regulated processes such as cell cycle, cell adhesion, cell differentiation and cell death are predominant in melanoma development. So far, conventional treatment options have been insufficient to treat metastatic melanoma and survival rates are poor. Anthraquinone compounds have been reported to have anti-tumorigenic potential by DNA-interaction, promotion of apoptosis and suppression of proliferation in various cancer cells.
Methods: In the current study, the racemic tetrahydroanthraquinone derivative (±)-4-deoxyaustrocortilutein (4-DACL) was synthesized and the cytotoxic activity against melanoma cells and melanoma spheroids determined by CellTiter-Blue viability Assay and phase contrast microscopy. Generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) was determined with CellROX Green and Deep Red Reagent kit and microplate-based fluorometry. Luciferase reporter gene assays for nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) and p53 activities and western blotting analysis were carried out to detect the expression of anti-proliferative or pro-apoptotic (p53, p21, p27, MDM2, and GADD45M) and anti-apoptotic (p65, IκB-α, IKK) proteins. Cell cycle distribution and apoptosis rate were detected by flow cytometry, the morphological changes visualized by fluorescence microscopy and the activation of different caspase cascades distinguished by Caspase Glo 3/7, 8 and 9 Assays.
Results: We demonstrated that 4-DACL displayed high activity against different malignant melanoma cells and melanoma spheroids and only low toxicity to melanocytes and other primary cells. In particular, 4-DACL treatment induced mitochondrial ROS, reduced NF-κB signaling activity and increased up-regulation of the cell cycle inhibitors cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21 (p21WAF1/Cip1) and the tumor suppressor protein p53 in a dose-dependent manner, which was accompanied by decreased cell proliferation and apoptosis via the intrinsic pathway.
Conclusion: According to these results, we suggest that 4-DACL may be a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of malignant melanoma.
Keywords: 4-DACL, anthraquinone, melanoma, spheroids, NF-κB, ROS, cell cycle arrest, apoptosis.