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.