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Contribution of the ROS-p53 feedback loop in thuja-induced apoptosis of mammary epithelial carcinoma cells

Saha S, Bhattacharjee P, Mukherjee S, Mazumdar M, Chakraborty S, Khurana A, Nayak D, Manchanda R, Chakrabarty R, Das T, Sa G. Contribution of the ROS-p53 feedback loop in thuja-induced apoptosis of mammary epithelial carcinoma cells. Oncol Rep. 2014;31(4);1589-98.

The adverse side-effects associated with chemotherapy during cancer treatment have shifted considerable focus towards therapies that are targeted but devoid of toxic side-effects. In the present study, the antitumorigenic activity of thuja, the bioactive derivative of the medicinal plant Thuja occidentalis, was evaluated, and the molecular mechanisms underlying thuja-induced apoptosis of functional p53-expressing mammary epithelial carcinoma cells were elucidated. Our results showed that thuja successfully induced apoptosis in functional p53-expressing mammary epithelial carcinoma cells. Abrogation of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS), prevention of p53-activation, knockdown of p53 or inhibition of its functional activity significantly abridged ROS generation. Notably, under these conditions, thuja-induced breast cancer cell apoptosis was reduced, thereby validating the existence of an ROS-p53 feedback loop. Elucidating this feedback loop revealed bi-phasic ROS generation as a key mediator of thuja-induced apoptosis. the first phase of ROS was instrumental in ensuring activation of p53 via p38MAPK and its nuclear translocation for transactivation of Bax, which induced a second phase of mitochondrial ROS to construct the ROS-p53 feedback loop. Such molecular crosstalk induced mitochondrial changes i) to maintain and amplify the thuja signal in a positive self-regulatory feedback manner; and ii) to promote the mitochondrial death cascade through cytochrome c release and caspase-driven apoptosis. These results open the horizon for developing a targeted therapy by modulating the redox status of functional p53-expressing mammary epithelial carcinoma cells by thuja.