Piperine, a piperidine alkaloid present in black pepper, inhibits the growth of cancer cells, although the mechanism of action is not well understood. In this study, we show that piperine (75-150 µM) inhibited the growth of several colon cancer cell lines but had little effect on the growth of normal fibroblasts and epithelial cells. Piperine inhibited HT-29 colon carcinoma cell proliferation by causing G1 phase cell cycle arrest that was associated with decreased expression of cyclins D1 and D3 and their activating partner cyclin-dependent kinases 4 and 6, as well as reduced phosphorylation of the retinoblastoma protein and up-regulation of p21/WAF1 and p27/KIP1 expression. In addition, piperine caused hydroxyl radical production and apoptosis that was partially dependent on the production of reactive oxygen species. Piperine-treated HT-29 cells showed loss of mitochondrial membrane integrity and cleavage of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase-1, as well as caspase activation and reduced apoptosis in the presence of the pan-caspase inhibitor zVAD-FMK. Increased expression of the endoplasmic reticulum stress-associated proteins inositol-requiring 1α protein, C/EBP homologous protein, and binding immunoglobulin protein, and activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, as well as decreased phosphorylation of Akt and reduced survivin expression were also observed in piperine-treated HT-29 cells. Furthermore, piperine inhibited colony formation by HT-29 cells, as well as the growth of HT-29 spheroids. Cell cycle arrest and endoplasmic reticulum stress-associated apoptosis following piperine treatment of HT-29 cells provides the first evidence that piperine may be useful in the treatment of colon cancer.
Keywords: caspase; cell cycle; cytotoxicity; phytochemical; stress-associated protein kinase.
© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.