Celecoxib derivatives induce apoptosis via the disruption of mitochondrial membrane potential and activation of caspase 9

Int J Cancer. 2005 Feb 20;113(5):803-10. doi: 10.1002/ijc.20639.


Celecoxib is a potent nonsteroid antiinflammatory drug (NSAID) that has shown great promise in cancer chemoprevention and treatment. The tumor suppression activity of celecoxib and other NSAIDs have been related to the induction of apoptosis in many cancer cell lines and animal models. While celecoxib is a specific inhibitor of cyclooxygenase (COX)-2, recent data indicate that its apoptotic properties may also be mediated through COX-independent pathways. In our study, we evaluated second generation celecoxib derivatives, lacking COX-2 inhibitory activity, in a premalignant and malignant human oral cell culture model to determine their potential anticancer effect and mechanisms responsible for the COX-independent apoptotic activity. Celecoxib and its derivatives delayed the progression of cells through the G(2)/M phase and induced apoptosis. The derivatives with apolar substituents at the terminal phenyl moiety of celecoxib greatly enhanced apoptosis and cell cycle delay. Apoptosis and cell cycle arrest appeared to be independent of derivative induced inhibition of PDK1 and phosphorylation of Akt and Erk1/2. Derivatives induced apoptosis was mediated by the cleavage and activation of caspase-9 and caspase-3, but not caspase 8, implicating the mitochondrial pathway for apoptosis induction. Inhibitors of caspase-3 and caspase-9 and cyclosporin A, a mitochondrial membrane potential stabilizer, attenuated derivative induced apoptosis. Inhibition of caspase-3 prevented the activation of caspase 8, while the inhibition of caspase-9 inhibitor blocked activation of both caspase 3 and 8 by the derivatives. Apoptosis was independent of Bcl-2. These results indicate that the second generation celecoxib derivatives induce apoptosis in human oral cancer lines by the disruption of mitochondrial membrane potential activating caspase 9 and downstream caspase 3 and 8. This suggests that the modification of the celecoxib structure can lead to highly effective COX-independent growth inhibitory and apoptotic agents in chemoprevention and therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 3-Phosphoinositide-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / pathology
  • Caspase 9
  • Caspases / metabolism*
  • Celecoxib
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects*
  • G2 Phase / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects*
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mouth Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Pyrazoles / pharmacology*
  • Sulfonamides / pharmacology*


  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors
  • Isoenzymes
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Pyrazoles
  • Sulfonamides
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • PTGS2 protein, human
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases
  • 3-Phosphoinositide-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • AKT1 protein, human
  • PDPK1 protein, human
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • CASP9 protein, human
  • Caspase 9
  • Caspases
  • Celecoxib