Bufotalin from Venenum Bufonis inhibits growth of multidrug resistant HepG2 cells through G(2)/M cell cycle arrest and apoptosis.
ABSTRACT Venenum Bufonis, a traditional Chinese medicine, is widely used in the treatment of liver cancer in modern Chinese medical practices. In our search for anti-hepatoma constituents in Venenum Bufonis, bufotalin, bufalin, telocinobufagin and cinobufagin were obtained. Bufotalin was the most potent active compound among these four bufadienolides, and it exerted stronger inhibitory effect on the viability of doxorubicin-induced multidrug resistant liver cancer cells (R-HepG2) than that of their parent cells HepG2. Structure-activity relationship analysis indicated that the acetyl group linked to C-16 of bufadienolides might be useful for increasing anti-hepatoma activity. Further mechanistic studies revealed that bufotalin treatment induced cell cycle arrest at G(2)/M phase through down-regulation of Aurora A, CDC25, CDK1, cyclin A and cyclin B1, as well as up-regulation of p53 and p21. Bufotalin treatment also induced apoptosis which was accompanied by decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential, increases in intracellular calcium level and reactive oxygen species production, activations of caspase-9 and -3, cleavage of poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) as well as changes in the expressions of bcl-2 and bax. It was also found that the inhibition of Akt expression and phosphorylation was involved in apoptosis induction, and specific Akt inhibitor LY294002 or siRNA targeting Akt can synergistically enhanced bufotalin-induced apoptosis. In vivo study showed that bufotalin significantly inhibited the growth of xenografted R-HepG2 cells, without body weight loss or marked toxicity towards the spleen. These results indicate that bufotalin has a promising potential to become a novel anti-cancer agent for the treatment of liver cancer with multidrug resistance.