Induction of cytoprotective autophagy by morusin via AMP-activated protein kinase activation in human non-small cell lung cancer cells

  • Park, Hyun-Ji (Department of Pathology, College of Korean Medicine, Dong-Eui University) ;
  • Park, Shin-Hyung (Department of Pathology, College of Korean Medicine, Dong-Eui University)
  • Received : 2020.03.24
  • Accepted : 2020.06.04
  • Published : 2020.10.01


BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Morusin, a marker component of Morus alba L., possesses anti-cancer activity. The objective of this study was to determine autophagy-inducing effect of morusin in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells and investigate the underlying mechanism. SUBJECTS/METHODS: Autophagy induction and the expression of autophagy-related proteins were analyzed by LC3 immunofluorescence and western blot, respectively. The role of autophagy and AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) was determined by treating NSCLC cells with bafilomycin A1, an autophagy inhibitor, and compound C, an AMPK inhibitor. Cytotoxicity and apoptosis induction were determined by MTT assay, trypan blue exclusion assay, annexin V-propidium iodide (PI) double staining assay, and cell cycle analysis. RESULTS: Morusin increased the formation of LC3 puncta in the cytoplasm and upregulated the expression of autophagy-related 5 (Atg5), Atg12, beclin-1, and LC3II in NSCLC cells, demonstrating that morusin could induce autophagy. Treatment with bafilomycin A1 markedly reduced cell viability but increased proportions of sub-G1 phase cells and annexin V-positive cells in H460 cells. These results indicate that morusin can trigger autophagy in NSCLC cells as a defense mechanism against morusin-induced apoptosis. Furthermore, we found that AMPK and its downstream acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC) were phosphorylated, while mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and its downstream p70S6 kinase (p70S6K) were dephosphorylated by morusin. Morusin-induced apoptosis was significantly increased by treatment with compound C in H460 cells. These results suggest that morusin-induced AMPK activation could protect NSCLC cells from apoptosis probably by inducing autophagy. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that combination treatment with morusin and autophagy inhibitor or AMPK inhibitor might enhance the clinical efficacy of morusin for NSCLC.


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