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Apoptosis. 2007 Jan;12(1):155-66.

Combretastatin CA-4 and combretastatin derivative induce mitotic catastrophe dependent on spindle checkpoint and caspase-3 activation in non-small cell lung cancer cells.

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Department of Biology, University Roma Tre, V.le Marconi 446, 00146, Rome, Italy.


Combretastatin A-4 (CA-4), a natural stilbenoid isolated from Combretum caffrum, is a new vascular targeting agent (VTA) known for its antitumor activity due to its anti-tubulin properties. We investigated the molecular mechanisms leading to cell death in non-small cell lung cancer H460 cells induced by natural (CA-4) and synthetic stilbenoids (ST2151) structurally related to CA-4. We found that both compounds induced depolymerization and rearrangement of spindle microtubules, as well as an increasingly aberrant organization of metaphase chromosomes in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Prolonged exposition to ST2151 led cells to organize multiple sites of tubulin repolymerization, whereas tubulin repolymerization was observed only after CA-4 washout. H460 cells were arrested at a pro-metaphase stage, with condensed chromosomes and a triggered spindle assembly checkpoint, as evaluated by kinetochore localization of Bub1 and Mad1 antibodies. Persistent checkpoint activation led to mitochondrial membrane permeabilization (MMP) alterations, cytochrome c release, activation of caspase-9 and -3, PARP cleavage and DNA fragmentation. On the other hand, caspase-2, and -8 were not activated by the drug treatment. The ability of cells to reassemble tubulin in the presence of an activated checkpoint may be responsible for ST2151-induced multinucleation, a recognized sign of mitotic catastrophe. In conclusion, we believe that discovery of new agents able to trigger mitotic catastrophe cell death as a result of mitotic block and prolonged spindle checkpoint activation is particularly worthwhile, considering that tumor cells have a high proliferative rate and mitotic failure occurs irrespective of p53 status.

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