The lauric acid-activated signaling prompts apoptosis in cancer cells

Cell Death Discov. 2017 Sep 18:3:17063. doi: 10.1038/cddiscovery.2017.63. eCollection 2017.


The saturated medium-chain fatty-acid lauric acid (LA) has been associated to certain health-promoting benefits of coconut oil intake, including the improvement of the quality of life in breast cancer patients during chemotherapy. As it concerns the potential to hamper tumor growth, LA was shown to elicit inhibitory effects only in colon cancer cells. Here, we provide novel insights regarding the molecular mechanisms through which LA triggers antiproliferative and pro-apoptotic effects in both breast and endometrial cancer cells. In particular, our results demonstrate that LA increases reactive oxygen species levels, stimulates the phosphorylation of EGFR, ERK and c-Jun and induces the expression of c-fos. In addition, our data evidence that LA via the Rho-associated kinase-mediated pathway promotes stress fiber formation, which exerts a main role in the morphological changes associated with apoptotic cell death. Next, we found that the increase of p21Cip1/WAF1 expression, which occurs upon LA exposure in a p53-independent manner, is involved in the apoptotic effects prompted by LA in both breast and endometrial cancer cells. Collectively, our findings may pave the way to better understand the anticancer action of LA, although additional studies are warranted to further corroborate its usefulness in more comprehensive therapeutic approaches.