Lycopene Protects Keratinocytes Against UVB Radiation-Induced Carcinogenesis via Negative Regulation of FOXO3a Through the mTORC2/AKT Signaling Pathway

J Cell Biochem. 2018 Jan;119(1):366-377. doi: 10.1002/jcb.26189. Epub 2017 Jun 30.


Lycopene, one of the most potent anti-oxidants, has been reported to exhibit potent anti-proliferative properties in a wide range of cancer cells through modulation of the cell cycle and apoptosis. Forkhead box O3 (FOXO3a) plays a pivotal role in modulating the expression of genes involved in cell death. Herein, we investigated the role of FOXO3a signaling in the anti-cancer effects of lycopene. Results showed that lycopene pretreatment attenuated UVB-induced cell hyper-proliferation and promoted apoptosis, accompanied by decreased cyclin-dependent kinase 2 (CDK2) and CDK4 complex in both human keratinocytes and SKH-1 hairless mice. FOXO3a is phosphorylated in response to UVB irradiation and sequestered in the cytoplasm, while lycopene pretreatment rescued this sensitization. Gene ablation of FOXO3a attenuated lycopene-induced decrease in cell hyper-proliferation, CDK2, and CDK4 complex, indicating a critical role of FOXO3a in the lycopene-induced anti-proliferative effect of keratinocytes during UVB irradiation. Transfection with FOXO3a siRNA inhibited the lycopene-induced increase in cell apoptosis, BAX and cleaved PARP expression. Moreover, loss of AKT induced further accelerated lycopene-induced FOXO3a dephosphorylation, while loss of mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 2 (mTORC2) by transfection with RICTOR siRNA induced levels of AKT phosphorylation comparable to those obtained with lycopene. In contrast, overexpression of AKT or mTORC2 decreased the effects of lycopene on the expression of FOXO3a as well as AKT phosphorylation, suggesting that lycopene depends on the negative modulation of mTORC2/AKT signaling. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that the mTORC2/AKT/FOXO3a axis plays a critical role in the anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects of lycopene in UVB-induced photocarcinogenesis. J. Cell. Biochem. 119: 366-377, 2018. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carotenoids / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Forkhead Box Protein O3 / metabolism*
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism*
  • Keratinocytes / pathology
  • Lycopene
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 2 / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Hairless
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / metabolism
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / prevention & control*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction* / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction* / radiation effects
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*


  • Forkhead Box Protein O3
  • FoxO3 protein, mouse
  • Carotenoids
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 2
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Lycopene