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Cancer Biol Ther. 2011 Dec 1;12(11):989-96. doi: 10.4161/cbt.12.11.18364. Epub 2011 Dec 1.

The combination of tephrosin with 2-deoxy-D-glucose enhances the cytotoxicity via accelerating ATP depletion and blunting autophagy in human cancer cells.

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Department of Biochemistry, College of Natural Sciences, Kangwon National University, Chuncheon, Gangwon-Do, South Korea.


2-Deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG), a synthetic glucose analog that acts as a glycolytic inhibitor, is currently under clinical evaluation for targeting tumor cells. Tephrosin (TSN), a plant rotenoid, is known as an anticancer agent. In this study, we describe that the addition of TSN to 2-DG enhanced the cytotoxic activity of 2-DG against various types of cancer cells by accelerating ATP depletion and blunting autophagy. TSN increased the sensitivity of cancer cells to the cytotoxic effect of 2-DG. The combination of TSN and 2-DG induced acceleration of intracellular ATP depletion and the drastic activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which resulted in the inactivation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway. Of particular interest, TSN suppressed 2-DG-induced autophagy, a cell survival process in response to nutrient deprivation. We also showed that TSN inhibited 2-DG-induced activation of elongation factor-2 kinase (eEF-2K), which has been known to regulate 2-DG-induced autophagy. Inhibition of eEF-2K by RNA interference blunted 2-DG-induced autophagy and increased the sensitivity of cancer cells to the cytotoxic effect of 2-DG. The addition of TSN to 2-DG, however, did not enhance the cytotoxic activity of 2-DG by knockdown of eEF-2K, suggesting that inhibition of eEF-2K by tephrsoin could be a critical role in the potentiating effect of TSN on the cytotoxicity of 2-DG. Furthermore, we showed that the blunted autophagy and enhanced cytotoxicity of 2-DG was accompanied by the augmentation of apoptosis. These results show that TSN may be valuable for augmenting the therapeutic efficacy of 2-DG.

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