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Int J Cancer. 2001 Jul 15;93(2):218-23.

Induction of apoptosis by cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitor NS398 through a cytochrome C-dependent pathway in esophageal cancer cells.

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Department of Clinical Cancer Prevention, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd., Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can induce tumor cells to undergo apoptosis in vitro. They have also shown cancer-preventive activity in vivo. The mechanism of their effects is, however, not well defined. We investigated the mechanism by which a new NSAID, NS398, induces apoptosis in esophageal cancer cell lines. NS398 decreased cell viability in 2 cyclo-oxygenase-2-positive (COX-2(+)) esophageal cancer cell lines but not in a COX-2(-) cell line. DNA fragmentation and TUNEL assays demonstrated that NS398 induced the 2 COX-2(+) cancer cell lines to undergo apoptosis. The percentage of apoptosis induced by NS398 was associated with the level of COX-2 expression. Further investigation showed that the cytochrome c pathway was responsible for NS398-induced apoptosis; i.e., cytochrome c was released from mitochondria, caspase-9 and caspase-3 were activated and finally poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase (PARP) was cleaved. Furthermore, the effect of NS398 was inhibited by the caspase inhibitor Z-DEVD-FMK and prostaglandin E(2). In contrast, bcl-2, bax, c-myc, Fas and Fas-ligand showed minor changes. Altogether, our data suggest that induction of apoptosis by NS398 is associated with COX-2 expression and occurs through the cytochrome c-dependent pathway, which sequentially activates caspase-9 and caspase-3 and cleaves PARP.

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