Emerging evidence suggests the therapeutic role of autophagic modulators in cancer therapy. This study aims to identify novel traditional Chinese medicinal herbs as potential anti-tumor agents through autophagic induction, which finally lead to autophagy mediated-cell death in apoptosis-resistant cancer cells. Using bioactivity-guided purification, we identified tetrandrine (Tet) from herbal plant, Radix stephaniae tetrandrae, as an inducer of autophagy. Across a number of cancer cell lines, we found that breast cancer cells treated with tetrandrine show an increase autophagic flux and formation of autophagosomes. In addition, tetrandrine induces cell death in a panel of apoptosis-resistant cell lines that are deficient for caspase 3, caspase 7, caspase 3 and 7, or Bax-Bak respectively. We also showed that tetrandrine-induced cell death is independent of necrotic cell death. Mechanistically, tetrandrine induces autophagy that depends on mTOR inactivation. Furthermore, tetrandrine induces autophagy in a calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase kinase-β (CaMKK-β), 5' AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) independent manner. Finally, by kinase profiling against 300 WT kinases and computational molecular docking analysis, we showed that tetrandrine is a novel PKC-α inhibitor, which lead to autophagic induction through PKC-α inactivation. This study provides detailed insights into the novel cytotoxic mechanism of an anti-tumor compound originated from the herbal plant, which may be useful in promoting autophagy mediated- cell death in cancer cell that is resistant to apoptosis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)