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.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Acknowledgements. This study was supported by a grant from the National R&D Program for Cancer Control, Ministry for Health and Welfare, Republic of Korea (1120340).
- Colon cancer
- Compound K
- Reactive oxygen species