MDM2 inhibition-mediated autophagy contributes to the pro-apoptotic effect of berberine in p53-null leukemic cells.
Life Sci. 2020 Feb 1 ;242:117228. Epub 2019 Dec 24. PMID: 31881227
AIMS: Berberine (BBR) is reported to induce apoptosis and inhibit migration of leukemic cells, but the underlying pharmacological mechanisms have not been fully revealed. This study aims to investigate the possible mechanisms from the perspective of autophagy.
MAIN METHODS: P-53-null leukemic cell lines Jurkat and U937 were used for the in vitro study. MDC staining was used for observation of autophagy in leukemic cells, and Western blot analysis was for determination of the expression levels of autophagy-associated proteins. Apoptosis of the leukemic cells was detected by flow cytometry. Cellular location of MDM2 was observed with immunofluorescence staining. Ubiquitination of MDM2 was assessed by immunoprecipitation. Male 6-8-week-old NOD/SCID mice were used for evaluating the effect of BBR on chemotherapy sensitivity in vivo.
KEY FINDINGS: BBR induced autophagy in p53-null leukemic cells, which was inhibited by autophagy inhibitors 3-methyladenine. 3-methyladenine also inhibited BBR-induced apoptosis in leukemic cells. In addition, BBR not only decreased MDM2 mRNA expression, but also enhanced MDM2 self-ubiquitination in leukemic cells. Forced overexpression of MDM2 reversed the effect of BBR on autophagy and apoptosis. Furthermore, BBR promoted doxorubicin-induced autophagy and cell death in the leukemic cells and overexpression of MDM2 suppressed these effects. In vivo, BBR combined with doxorubicin achieved better therapeutic effect than doxorubicin alone.
SIGNIFICANCE: MDM2 inhibits autophagy and apoptosis in leukemic cells in a p53-independent manner. BBR induces autophagy in p53-null leukemic cells through downregulating MDM2 expression at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels, which may contribute to the anti-cancer effect of BBR in leukemia.