Cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) are a cell subpopulation that can reinitiate tumors, resist chemotherapy, give rise to metastases and lead to disease relapse because of an acquired resistance to apoptosis. Especially, epigenetic alterations play a crucial role in the regulation of stemness and also have been implicated in the development of drug resistance. Hence, in the present study, we examined the cytotoxic and apoptotic activity of valproic acid (VPA) as an inhibitor of histone deacetylases (HDACs) against breast CSCs (BCSCs). Increased expression of stemness markers were determined by western blotting in mammospheres (MCF-7s, a cancer stem cell-enriched population) propagated from parental MCF-7 cells. Anti-growth activity of VPA was determined via ATP viability assay. The sphere formation assay (SFA) was performed to assess the inhibitory effect of VPA on the self-renewal capacity of MCF-7s cells. Acetylation of histon H3 was detected with ELISA assay. Cell death mode was performed by Hoechst dye 33342 and propidium iodide-based flouresent stainings (for pyknosis and membrane integrity), by M30 and M65 ELISA assays (for apoptosis and primary or secondary necrosis) as well as cytofluorimetric analysis (caspase 3/7 activity and annexin-V-FITC staining for early and late stage apoptosis). VPA exhibited anti-growth effect against both MCF-7 and MCF-7s cells in a dose (0.6-20 mM) and time (24, 48, 72 h) dependent manner. As expected, MCF-7s cells were found more resistant to VPA than MCF-7 cells. It was observed that VPA prevented mammosphere formation at relatively lower doses (2.5 and 5 mM) while the acetylation of histon H3 was increased. At the same doses, VPA increased the M30 levels, annexin-V-FITC positivity and caspase 3/7 activation, implying the induction of apoptosis. The secondary necrosis (late stage of apoptosis) was also evidenced by nuclear pyknosis with propidium iodide staining positivity. Taken together, inhibition of HDACs is cytotoxic to BCSCs by apoptosis. Our results suggested that targeting the epigenetic regulation of histones may be a novel approach and hold significant promise for successful treatment of breast cancer.
Keywords: Apoptosis; Breast cancer stem cell; Epigenetic modulators; Valproic acid.
Copyright © 2017. Published by Elsevier B.V.