Piperlongumine, an alkaloid causes inhibition of PI3 K/Akt/mTOR signaling axis to induce caspase-dependent apoptosis in human triple-negative breast cancer cells

Apoptosis. 2014 Jul;19(7):1148-64. doi: 10.1007/s10495-014-0991-2.


The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3 K)/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling axis plays a central role in cell proliferation, growth and survival under physiological conditions. However, aberrant PI3 K/Akt/mTOR signaling has been implicated in many human cancers, including human triple negative breast cancer. Therefore, dual inhibitors of PI3 K/Akt and mTOR signaling could be valuable agents for treating breast cancer. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of piperlongumine (PPLGM), a natural alkaloid on PI3 K/Akt/mTOR signaling, Akt mediated regulation of NF-kB and apoptosis evasion in human breast cancer cells. Using molecular docking studies, we found that PPLGM physically interacts with the conserved domain of PI3 K and mTOR kinases and the results were comparable with standard dual inhibitor PF04691502. Our results demonstrated that treatment of different human triple-negative breast cancer cells with PPLGM resulted in concentration- and time-dependent growth inhibition. The inhibition of cancer cell growth was associated with G1-phase cell cycle arrest and down-regulation of the NF-kB pathway leads to activation of the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway. It was also found that PPLGM significantly decreased the expression of p-Akt, p70S6K1, 4E-BP1, cyclin D1, Bcl-2, p53 and increased expression of Bax, cytochrome c in human triple-negative breast cancer cells. Although insulin treatment increased the phosphorylation of Akt (Ser473), p70S6K1, 4E-BP1, PPLGM abolished the insulin mediated phosphorylation, it clearly indicates that PPLGM acts through PI3 k/Akt/mTOR axis. Our results suggest that PPLGM may be an effective therapeutic agent for the treatment of human triple negative breast cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Caspases / metabolism*
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints / genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • DNA Fragmentation / drug effects
  • Dioxolanes / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinase / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / pathology


  • Alkaloids
  • Dioxolanes
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • MTOR protein, human
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinase
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Caspases
  • piperlonguminine