Induction of Autophagic Death in Cancer Cells by Agonizing TR3 and Attenuating Akt2 Activity

Chem Biol. 2015 Aug 20;22(8):1040-51. doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2015.06.023. Epub 2015 Jul 30.


Apoptotic resistance is becoming a significant obstacle for cancer therapy as the majority of treatment takes the route of apoptotic induction. It is of great importance to develop an alternative strategy to induce cancer cell death. We previously reported that autophagic cell death mediated by nuclear receptor TR3 and driven by a chemical agonist, 1-(3,4,5-trihydroxyphenyl)nonan-1-one (THPN), is highly effective in the therapy of melanoma but not any other cancer types. Here, we discovered that the insensitivity of cancer cells to THPN originated from a high cellular Akt2 activity. Akt2 phosphorylation interferes with TR3 export to cytoplasm and targeting to mitochondria, which lead to the autophagic induction. Therefore, the TR3-mediated autophagy could be effectively induced in the otherwise insensitive cells by downregulating Akt2 activity. Highly effective antineoplastic compounds are developed through optimizing the structure of THPN. This study implicates a general strategy for cancer therapy by the induction of autophagic cell death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Autophagy / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Ketones / pharmacology*
  • Melanoma, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Melanoma, Experimental / metabolism
  • Melanoma, Experimental / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Nude
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / agonists*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Pyrogallol / analogs & derivatives*
  • Pyrogallol / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone / metabolism*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • 1-(3,4,5-trihydroxyphenyl)nonan-1-one
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Ketones
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone
  • Pyrogallol
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt