Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) inhibits tumorigenesis and tumor growth in most model systems, an effect mediated in part by its pro-apoptotic activity. We previously showed that trans-10,cis-12 CLA induced apoptosis of p53-mutant TM4t mouse mammary tumor cells through both mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum stress pathways. In the current study, we investigated the role of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a key player in fatty acid metabolism, in CLA-induced apoptosis in TM4t cells. We found that t10,c12-CLA increased phosphorylation of AMPK, and that CLA-induced apoptosis was enhanced by the AMPK agonist 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-beta-D-ribofuranoside (AICAR) and inhibited by the AMPK inhibitor compound C. The increased AMPK activity was not due to nutrient/energy depletion since ATP levels did not change in CLA-treated cells, and knockdown of the upstream kinase LKB1 did not affect its activity. Furthermore, our data do not demonstrate a role for the AMPK-modulated mTOR pathway in CLA-induced apoptosis. Although CLA decreased mTOR levels, activity was only modestly decreased. Moreover, rapamycin, which completely blocked the activity of mTORC1 and mTORC2, did not induce apoptosis, and attenuated rather than enhanced CLA-induced apoptosis. Instead, the data suggest that CLA-induced apoptosis is mediated by the AMPK-p38 MAPK-Bim pathway: CLA-induced phosphorylation of AMPK and p38 MAPK, and increased expression of Bim, occurred with a similar time course as apoptosis; phosphorylation of p38 MAPK was blocked by compound C; the increased Bim expression was blocked by p38 MAPK siRNA; CLA-induced apoptosis was attenuated by the p38 inhibitor SB-203580 and by siRNAs directed against p38 MAPK or Bim.
Copyright 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.