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Free Radic Biol Med. 2014 Apr;69:15-25. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2013.12.027. Epub 2014 Jan 7.

Gambogic acid induces apoptosis in hepatocellular carcinoma SMMC-7721 cells by targeting cytosolic thioredoxin reductase.

Author information

1
State Key Laboratory of Applied Organic Chemistry and College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China.
2
State Key Laboratory of Applied Organic Chemistry and College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China. Electronic address: fangjg@lzu.edu.cn.

Abstract

The thioredoxin reductase (TrxR) isoenzymes, TrxR1 in cytosol or nucleus and TrxR2 in mitochondria, are essential mammalian selenocysteine (Sec)-containing flavoenzymes with a unique C-terminal -Gly-Cys-Sec-Gly active site. TrxRs are often overexpressed in a number of human tumors, and the reduction of their expression in malignant cells reverses tumor growth, making the enzymes attractive targets for anticancer drug development. Gambogic acid (GA), a natural product that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, demonstrates potent anticancer activity in numerous types of human cancer cells and has entered phase II clinical trials. We discovered that GA may interact with TrxR1 to elicit oxidative stress and eventually induce apoptosis in human hepatocellular carcinoma SMMC-7721 cells. GA primarily targets the Sec residue in the antioxidant enzyme TrxR1 to inhibit its Trx-reduction activity, leading to accumulation of reactive oxygen species and collapse of the intracellular redox balance. Importantly, overexpression of functional TrxR1 in cells attenuates the cytotoxicity of GA, whereas knockdown of TrxR1 sensitizes cells to GA. Targeting of TrxR1 by GA thus discloses a previously unrecognized mechanism underlying the biological action of GA and provides useful information for further development of GA as a potential agent in the treatment of cancer.

KEYWORDS:

Apoptosis; Free radicals; Gambogic acid; Reactive oxygen species; Thioredoxin reductase

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