Recent investigations have pointed out the ability of fatty acids, in particular of docosohaexanoic acid (DHA), to induce growth inhibition and apoptosis in the human PaCa-44 pancreatic cancer cell line through a series of mechanisms which has been hypothesized to mimic apoptosis. While preliminary evidences indicated the involvement of lipid-targeting oxidative stress in DHA-induced apoptotic processes, mainly through the alteration of the glutathione (GSH) homeostasis and oxidized-glutathione (GSSG) turn-over through their extra-cellular extrusion, no further molecular data have been hitherto accumulated. To this end, we hereby propose simultaneous protein-targeting and metabolite-oriented analyses, which have been integrated through the auxilium of in silico elaboration of those protein-protein interaction pathways and enrichment of biological/molecular functions. To determine the most suitable time window for the early onset of the DHA-triggered apoptosis phenomena we performed flow cytometry-based apoptotic assessment at 24, 48 and 72 h. Results indicated that the focus of apoptosis onset ranged from 48 to 72 h. From these analyses it emerges that the metabolism of control human PaCa-44 pancreatic cancer cell line mainly leans on glycolytic pathways, while it is promptly switched to Kreb's cycle activation (overexpression of Kreb's cycle enzymes in DHA-treated cells against controls) and modulation of the GSH homeostasis through an increased production of GSSG-reducing NADPH coenzyme via the shift of the glycolytic energy flux towards the pentose phosphate pathway. Interestingly, it also emerges a role for structural protein alteration in DHA-treated cells, which might be linked to cytoskeletal alterations occurring during apoptosis.
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