Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive malignancy, which generally responds poorly to chemotherapy. In this study, trichodermin, an endophytic fungal metabolite from Nalanthamala psidii, was identified as a potent and selective antitumor agent in human pancreatic cancer. Trichodermin exhibited antiproliferative effects against pancreatic cancer cells, especially p53-mutated cells (MIA PaCa-2 and BxPC-3) rather than normal pancreatic epithelial cells. We found that trichodermin induced caspase-dependent and mitochondrial intrinsic apoptosis. Trichodermin also increased apoptosis through mitotic arrest by activating Cdc2/cyclin B1 complex activity. Moreover, trichodermin promoted the activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), and inhibition of JNK by its inhibitor, shRNA, or siRNA significantly reversed trichodermin-mediated caspase-dependent apoptosis. Trichodermin triggered DNA damage stress to activate p53 function for executing apoptosis in p53-mutated cells. Importantly, we demonstrated that trichodermin with efficacy similar to gemcitabine, profoundly suppressed tumor growth through inducing intratumoral DNA damage and JNK activation in orthotopic pancreatic cancer model. Based on these findings, trichodermin is a potential therapeutic agent worthy of further development into a clinical trial candidate for treating cancer, especially the mutant p53 pancreatic cancer.
Keywords: Apoptosis; DNA damage; Mitotic arrest; Pancreatic cancer; Trichodermin; c-Jun N-terminal kinase.
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