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Cancer cell international

α-TEA-induced death receptor dependent apoptosis involves activation of acid sphingomyelinase and elevated ceramide-enriched cell surface membranes.


PMID 20974006

Abstract

Alpha-tocopherol ether-linked acetic acid (α-TEA), an analog of vitamin E (RRR-alpha-tocopherol), is a potent and selective apoptosis-inducing agent for human cancer cells in vivo and in vitro. α-TEA induces apoptosis via activation of extrinsic death receptors Fas (CD95) and DR5, JNK/p73/Noxa pathways, and suppression of anti-apoptotic mediators Akt, ERK, c-FLIP and survivin in breast, ovarian and prostate cancer cells. In this study, we demonstrate that α-TEA induces the accumulation of cell surface membrane ceramide, leading to co-localization with Fas, DR5, and FADD, followed by activation of caspases-8 and -9 and apoptosis in human MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. α-TEA treatment leads to increased acid sphingomyelinase (ASMase) activity by 30 min, peaking at 4 hrs, which is correlated with ASMase translocation from cytosol to the cell surface membrane. Functional knockdown of ASMase with either the chemical inhibitor, desipramine, or siRNA markedly reduces α-TEA-induced cell surface membrane accumulation of ceramide and its co-localization with Fas, DR5, and FADD, cleavage of caspases-8 and -9 and apoptosis, suggesting an early and critical role for ASMase in α-TEA-induced apoptosis. Consistent with cell culture data, immunohistochemical analyses of tumor tissues taken from α-TEA treated nude mice bearing MDA-MB-231 xenografts show increased levels of cell surface membrane ceramide in comparison to tumor tissues from control animals. Taken together, these studies demonstrate that ASMase activation and membrane ceramide accumulation are early events contributing to α-TEA-induced apoptosis in vitro and perhaps in vivo.

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