Background: Mistletoe extract of Visucm album extract (VAE) contains many biologically active components and has been reported to be not only a complementary and alternative medicine, but also a potent therapeutic agent for many types of cancer.
Purpose: In this study, we examined the effect of VAE on expression and activation of Axl and scrutinized the involvement of Axl in the anti-cancer activity of VAE in parental and chemo-resistant non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells.
Methods: The levels of Axl protein and mRNA were determined by Western blot analysis and RT-PCR, respectively. Phosphorylation of Axl upon Gas6 stimulation was observed by Western blot analysis. For ectopic expression or gene silencing of Axl, the recombinant plasmid, pcDNA3-Axl, or specific siRNA targeting Axl were transfected into A549 and H460 cells using Lipofectamine 2000, respectively. The anti-cancer activity of mistletoe extract was examined against the parental cells and each of their cisplatin- or erlotinib-resistant cells using trypan blue exclusion assays and colony formation assay.
Results: The levels of Axl mRNA were also reduced by VAE treatment, implying the transcriptional downregulation of Axl expression by VAE. In addition, the phosphorylation of Axl protein upon its ligand, Gas6, stimulation was found to be abrogated by VAE. We next found cytotoxic effect of VAE on both the parental NSCLC cells and their variants which are resistant to cisplatin (A549/CisR and H460/CisR) or erlotinib (H460/ER and H1975/ER). Treatment of these cells with VAE caused a dose-dependent decrease of cell viability and clonogenicity. This anti-proliferative effect of VAE was attenuated in Axl-overexpressing cells, while it was augmented in cells transfected Axl specific siRNA. Next, we also found that in cisplatin-resistant cells and erlotinib-resistant cells, VAE treatment decreased Axl protein level, colonogenicity. The levels of several cell cycle regulator, p21 and apoptosis related protein, X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis, was found to be induced and reduced by VAE treatment, respectively.
Conclusion: Taken together, our data provide that VAE targets Axl to suppress cell proliferation and to circumvent cisplatin- and erlotinib-resistance in NSCLC cells.
Keywords: Axl; Chemoresistance; Gas6; Mistletoe extract; NSCLC.
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