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Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2010 Jan;298(1):G63-73. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00257.2009. Epub 2009 Sep 17.

Rottlerin stimulates apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells through interactions with proteins of the Bcl-2 family.

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Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Departments of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA.


Rottlerin is a polyphenolic compound derived from Mallotus philipinensis. In the present study, we show that rottlerin decreased tumor size and stimulated apoptosis in an orthotopic model of pancreatic cancer with no effect on normal tissues in vivo. Rottlerin also induced apoptosis in pancreatic cancer (PaCa) cell lines by interacting with mitochondria and stimulating cytochrome c release. Immunoprecipitation results indicated that rottlerin disrupts complexes of prosurvival Bcl-xL with Bim and Puma. Furthermore, siRNA knockdown showed that Bim and Puma are necessary for rottlerin to stimulate apoptosis. We also showed that rottlerin and Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL inhibitor BH3I-2' stimulate apoptosis through a common mechanism. They both directly interact with mitochondria, causing increased cytochrome c release and mitochondrial depolarization, and both decrease sequestration of BH3-only proteins by Bcl-xL. However, the effects of rottlerin and BH3I-2' on the complex formation between Bcl-xL and BH3-only proteins are different. BH3I-2' disrupts complexes of Bcl-xL with Bad but not with Bim or Puma, whereas rottlerin had no effect on the Bcl-xL interaction with Bad. Also BH3I-2', but not rottlerin, required Bad to stimulate apoptosis. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that rottlerin has a potent proapoptotic and antitumor activity in pancreatic cancer, which is mediated by disrupting the interaction between prosurvival Bcl-2 proteins and proapoptotic BH3-only proteins. Thus rottlerin represents a promising novel agent for pancreatic cancer treatment.

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