Licochalcone A suppresses hexokinase 2-mediated tumor glycolysis in gastric cancer via downregulation of the Akt signaling pathway.
Oncol Rep. 2018 Mar ;39(3):1181-1190. Epub 2017 Dec 14. PMID: 29286170
Licochalcone A (LicA) is a chalcone extracted from liquorice which has been used as a traditional Chinese medicine for many generations. Increased glucose consumption and glycolytic activity are important hallmarks of cancer cells, and hexokinase 2 (HK2) upregulation is a major contributor to the elevation of glycolysis. Recently, the antitumor activities of LicA have been reported in various cancers; however, its effect on tumor glycolysis in gastric cancer and the underlying mechanisms are completely unknown. In vitro, cell proliferation and clonogenic survival were substantially inhibited after LicA treatment. LicA reduced HK2 expression, and both glucose consumption and lactate production in gastric cancer cells were significantly suppressed. Mechanistic investigations revealed that multiple signaling pathways including Akt, ERK and NF‑κB were suppressed by LicA. Further studies demonstrated that the inhibition of glycolysis by LicA was mainly attributed to the blockade of the Akt signaling pathway, and the suppression of glycolysis was substantially attenuated when Akt was exogenously overexpressed. In addition to the role in the inhibition of glycolysis, reduction in HK2 was confirmed to be involved in the induction of cell apoptosis. The apoptosis induced by LicA was substantially impaired after HK2 overexpression in gastric cancer cells. The in vivo experiment showed that MKN45 xenograft growth was markedly delayed after LicA treatment and HK2 expression in LicA‑treated tissues was markedly decreased. All of these data demonstrated that blockade of the Akt/HK2 pathway was the underlying mechanism required for LicA to exert its biological activities in glycolysis inhibition and apoptosis induction.