A ginseng metabolite, compound K, induces autophagy and apoptosis via generation of reactive oxygen species and activation of JNK in human colon cancer cells

A. D. Kim, K. A. Kang, H. S. Kim, D. H. Kim, Y. H. Choi, S. J. Lee, H. S. Kim, J. W. Hyun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations

Abstract

Compound K (20-O-(β-D-glucopyranosyl)-20(S)-protopanaxadiol) is an active metabolite of ginsenosides and induces apoptosis in various types of cancer cells. This study investigated the role of autophagy in compound K-induced cell death of human HCT-116 colon cancer cells. Compound K activated an autophagy pathway characterized by the accumulation of vesicles, the increased positive acridine orange-stained cells, the accumulation of LC3-II, and the elevation of autophagic flux. Whereas blockade of compound K-induced autophagy by 3-methyladenein and bafilomycin A1 significantly increased cell viability. In addition, compound K augmented the time-dependent expression of the autophagy-related proteins Atg5, Atg6, and Atg7. However, knockdown of Atg5, Atg6, and Atg7 markedly inhibited the detrimental impact of compound K on LC3-II accumulation and cell vitality. Compound K-provoked autophagy was also linked to the generation of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS); both of these processes were mitigated by the pre-treatment of cells with the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine. Moreover, compound K activated the c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) signaling pathway, whereas downregulation of JNK by its specific inhibitor SP600125 or by small interfering RNA against JNK attenuated autophagy-mediated cell death in response to compound K. Compound K also provoked apoptosis, as evidenced by an increased number of apoptotic bodies and sub-G1 hypodiploid cells, enhanced activation of caspase-3 and caspase-9, and modulation of Bcl-2 and Bcl-2-associated X protein expression. Notably, compound K-stimulated autophagy as well as apoptosis was induced by disrupting the interaction between Atg6 and Bcl-2. Taken together, these results indicate that the induction of autophagy and apoptosis by compound K is mediated through ROS generation and JNK activation in human colon cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere750
JournalCell Death and Disease
Volume4
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2013

Keywords

  • Apoptosis
  • Autophagy
  • Colon cancer
  • Compound K
  • Reactive oxygen species

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