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Mol Pharmacol. 2005 Aug;68(2):502-10. Epub 2005 May 20.

Kahalalide F induces necrosis-like cell death that involves depletion of ErbB3 and inhibition of Akt signaling.

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Department of Medical Oncology, VU University Medical Center, De Boelelaan 1117, PO Box 7057, 1007MB Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Kahalalide F (KF) is a novel marine-derived antitumor agent that is currently undergoing phase II clinical trials. The mechanism of action of KF is not well understood. In line with previous reports, we show that KF caused rapid and potent cytotoxicity in the breast cancer cell lines SKBR3 and BT474, characterized by cytoplasmic swelling and DNA clumping. Several markers of caspase-dependent apoptosis, such as phosphatidyl-serine externalization, cytochrome c release, and caspase-3 and poly-(ADP-ribose) polymerase cleavage were negative after KF exposure. Inhibitors of caspases or cathepsins failed to protect against KF cytotoxicity. Altogether, these data indicate that KF-induced cell death is a necrosis-like process. The sensitivity to KF in a panel of human tumor cell lines derived from breast (SKBR3, BT474, and MCF7), vulval (A431), non-small-cell lung (H460, A549, SW1573, and H292), and hepatic (Skhep1, HepG2, and Hep3B) carcinomas positively correlated with ErbB3 (HER3) protein levels. A KF-resistant subline of colon carcinoma cells, HT29/KF, expressed significantly reduced levels of all ErbB receptors, but short-term KF exposure of sensitive cell lines such as SKBR3 selectively induced down-regulation of ErbB3. On the other hand, stable transfection of an ErbB3-expressing plasmid increased the KF sensitivity of H460 cells, the most resistant cell line in our panel. Finally, we found that KF efficiently inhibited the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt signaling pathway in sensitive cell lines and that ectopic expression of a constitutively active Akt mutant reduced KF cytotoxicity in this cell line. In summary, our results identify ErbB3 and the downstream PI3K-Akt pathway as important determinants of the cytotoxic activity of KF in vitro.

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