Wedelolactone, a medicinal plant-derived coumestan, induces caspase-dependent apoptosis in prostate cancer cells via downregulation of PKCε without inhibiting Akt

Int J Oncol. 2012 Dec;41(6):2191-9. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2012.1664. Epub 2012 Oct 16.


Emerging studies indicate that metabolism of arachidonic acid through the 5-lipoxygenase (5-Lox) pathway plays a critical role in the survival of prostate cancer cells raising the possibility that 5-Lox can be targeted for an effective therapy of prostate cancer. Wedelolactone (WDL), a medicinal plant-derived natural compound, is known to inhibit 5-Lox activity in neutrophils. However, its effect on apoptosis in prostate cancer cells has not been addressed. Thus, we tested the effects of WDL on human prostate cancer cells in vitro. We observed that WDL kills both androgen-sensitive as well as androgen-independent prostate cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner by dramatically inducing apoptosis. We also found that WDL-induced apoptosis in prostate cancer cells is dependent on c-Jun N-terminal Kinase (c-JNK) and caspase-3. Interestingly, WDL triggers apoptosis in prostate cancer cells via downregulation of protein kinase Cε (PKCε), but without inhibition of Akt. WDL does not affect the viability of normal prostate epithelial cells (PrEC) at doses that kill prostate cancer cells, and WDL-induced apoptosis is effectively prevented by 5-oxoETE, a metabolite of 5-Lox (but not by 15-oxoETE, a metabolite of 15-Lox), suggesting that the apoptosis-inducing effect of WDL in prostate cancer cells is mediated via inhibition of 5-Lox activity. These findings indicate that WDL selectivity induces caspase-dependent apoptosis in prostate cancer cells via a novel mechanism involving inhibition of PKCε without affecting Akt and suggest that WDL may emerge as a novel therapeutic agent against clinical prostate cancer in human.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Caspases / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Coumarins / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Down-Regulation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 4 / metabolism
  • Male
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Protein Kinase C-epsilon / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Coumarins
  • wedelolactone
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Protein Kinase C-epsilon
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 4
  • Caspases