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Mol Carcinog. 2009 Dec;48(12):1093-108. doi: 10.1002/mc.20559.

Activation of p53/p21/PUMA alliance and disruption of PI-3/Akt in multimodal targeting of apoptotic signaling cascades in cervical cancer cells by a pentacyclic triterpenediol from Boswellia serrata.

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  • 1Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine, Canal Road, Jammu 180001, India.


Cervical carcinoma is a growing menace to women health worldwide. This study reports the apoptotic cell death in human cervical cancer HeLa and SiHa cells by a pentacyclic triterpenediol (TPD) from Boswellia serrata by a mechanism different from reported in HL-60 cells. It caused oxidative stress by early generation of nitric oxide and reactive oxygen species that robustly up regulated time-dependent expression of p53/p21/PUMA while conversely abrogating phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathways in parallel. TPD also decreased the expression of PI3K/pAkt, ERK1/2, NF-kappaB/Akt signaling cascades which coordinately contribute to cancer cell survival through these distinct pathways. The tumor suppressor p53 pathway predominantly activated by TPD further up-regulated PUMA, which concomitantly decreased the Bcl-2 level, caused mitochondrial membrane potential loss with attendant translocation of Bax and drp1 to mitochondria and release of pro-apoptotic factors such as cytochrome c and Smac/Diablo to cytosol leading to caspases-3 and -9 activation. In addition both the phospho-p53 and p21 were found to accumulate heavily in the nuclear fraction with attendant decrease in topoisomarase II and survivin levels. On the contrary, TPD did not affect the extrinsic signaling transduction pathway effectively through apical death receptors. Interestingly, N-acetyl cysteine, ascorbate and s-methylisothiourea (sMIT) rescued cells significantly from TPD induced DNA damage and caspases activation. TPD may thus find usefulness in managing and treating cervical cancer.

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