Ursolic acid-mediated changes in glycolytic pathway promote cytotoxic autophagy and apoptosis in phenotypically different breast cancer cells.
Apoptosis. 2017 Feb 17. Epub 2017 Feb 17. PMID: 28213701
Plant-derived pentacyclic triterpenotids with multiple biological activities are considered as promising candidates for cancer therapy and prevention. However, their mechanisms of action are not fully understood. In the present study, we have analyzed the effects of low dose treatment (5-20 µM) of ursolic acid (UA) and betulinic acid (BA) on breast cancer cells of different receptor status, namely MCF-7 (ER(+), PR(+/-), HER2(-)), MDA-MB-231 (ER(-), PR(-), HER2(-)) and SK-BR-3 (ER(-), PR(-), HER2(+)). UA-mediated response was more potent than BA-mediated response. Triterpenotids (5-10 µM) caused G0/G1 cell cycle arrest, an increase in p21 levels and SA-beta-galactosidase staining that was accompanied by oxidative stress and DNA damage. UA (20 µM) also diminished AKT signaling that affected glycolysis as judged by decreased levels of HK2, PKM2, ATP and lactate. UA-induced energy stress activated AMPK that resulted in cytotoxic autophagy and apoptosis. UA-mediated elevation in nitric oxide levels and ATM activation may also account for AMPK activation-mediated cytotoxic response. Moreover, UA-promoted apoptosis was associated with decreased pERK1/2 signals and the depolarization of mitochondrial membrane potential. Taken together, we have shown for the first time that UA at low micromolar range may promote its anticancer action by targeting glycolysis in phenotypically distinct breast cancer cells.