In vitro studies using curcumin and curcumin analogues as candidate mitochondria-targeting anticancer agents affecting colon cancer cells
Curcumin is one of the major curcuminoids produced by the ginger family Zingiberaceae. These curcuminoids possess pharmacological properties that include anticancer activities. We have evaluated some synthetic curcumin analogues that have shown potential as anticancer drugs. These antineoplastic agents bearing the 1,5-diaryl-3-oxo-1,4-pentadienyl pharmacophore are electrophiles which are designed to preferentially react with sulfhydryl groups present in proteins as opposed to amino and hydroxyl groups present in DNA. In previous pilot studies, three derivatives examined in this thesis showed inhibition towards human cancer cell lines such as Molt 4/C8 and CEM T-lymphocytes. In this thesis work, I determined the cytotoxicity of these derivatives and curcumin towards human colon cancer (HCT-116) cells and also normal colon epithelial (CRL-1790) cells, and examined the possible mechanism(s) involved. I hypothesized that they act via induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) which elicit a transient surge of mitochondrial ROS generation and a phenomenon known as ROS-induced ROS release (RIRR), along with the mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT) and mitochondrion –dependent apoptosis. I asked whether these agents react with some of the key protein thiols in the mitochondria whose oxidation/alkylation results in mitochondrion - dependent apoptosis. NC-2109 and NC-2346 were found to be potent cytotoxic agents based on their GI50 values of 0.87 ± 0.38 μM and 0.90 ± 0.22 μM, respectively, and were more potent than the anticancer drug 5-fluorouracil (GI50 = 5.47 ± 0.55 μM) and curcumin (GI50 = 3.50 ± 0.36 μM). However NC-2109 was found to have a better selectivity towards cancer cells over normal cells (a selectivity index of 18.81 versus 5-FU, curcumin and NC-2346 which had selectivity indices of 1.87, 16.75 and 4.61, respectively). In the investigations of the mechanisms involved, both curcumin and curcumin analogues were able to induce mitochondrial ROS production. Moreover, curcumin and its synthetic counterparts showed a biphasic ROS profile which is most characteristic of RIRR. Treatment with these agents also led to the disruption of the mitochondrial membrane potential, suggesting oxidation of protein thiols and the opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore which is an important step to initiate mitochondria-directed apoptosis. This possibility was confirmed based on GSSG/GSH ratios, since curcumin, NC-2346 and NC-2109 all produced a higher GSSG/GSH ratio than the controls. In addition to their ability to depolarize the mitochondrial membrane in HCT-116 cells, that these molecules acted via the mitochondrial pathway were further authenticated based on their ability to induce mitochondrial swelling in rat liver mitochondria. In another part of this thesis I evaluated the involvement of the critical thiol protein adenine nucleotide translocase (ANT), a bifunctional protein that plays a central role in mitochondrial apoptosis. ANT has four different isoforms; ANT1 and ANT3 are proapoptotic, while ANT2 and ANT4 are antiapoptotic and are overexpressed in cancer states. A combination approach using ANT2 siRNA however did not conclusively show whether these agents acted synergistically with ANT2 knockdown to potentiate mitochondria-mediated cell death. An alternative combination approach was the use of carboxyatractyloside (CAT) which binds to and retains ANT in its ‘c’ conformation, exposing thiols and potentially driving a cell towards programmed cell death. The presence of CAT enhanced the ability of curcumin and its synthetic analogs to collapse the mitochondrial membrane potential, an important step in mitochondrial-mediated apoptosis. In conclusion, curcumin and the curcumin analogue NC-2109 were found to be cytotoxic in vitro, towards HCT-116 cells and also showed good selectivity. In addition, these two molecules were found to be ROS inducers, and coincidentally oxidized cellular thiols and caused depolarization of the mitochondrial membrane potential. The results support a mechanism of mitochondrial-mediated cell death upon MPT pore formation (mitochondrial swelling), perhaps involving ANT2. This conclusion was further supported by the potentiation of cell death in the presence of the ANT2 inhibitor, CAT.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorBandy, Brian J.; Dimmock, Jonathan R.
CommitteePaterson, Phyllis; Badea, Ildiko; Krol, Ed; Sharma, Rajendra
Copyright DateSeptember 2014
apoptosis, mitochondria, reactive oxygen species, curcumin, anticancer, unsaturated ketones