Background: Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common, malignant, and lethal primary brain tumor in adults accounting for about 50% of all gliomas. Up to now, the chemotherapy approaches for GBM were limited. 3-O-acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA), the major active ingredient of the gum resin from Boswellia serrata and Boswellia carteri Birdw., was reported to inhibit the growth of many types of cancer cells; however, the underlying mechanism of its anticancer effects are still unclear.
Methods: The effects of AKBA on cell viability and its cytotoxicity were determined using CCK8 and LDH kits respectively. The EdU-DNA synthesis assay was used to evaluate inhibition of cell proliferation by AKBA. The role of AKBA in glioblastoma cell functions such as migration/invasion, and colony formation was evaluated using transwell chambers and soft agar, respectively. Flow cytometry and western blotting were used to detect AKBA-induced apoptosis. Potential mechanisms of AKBA action were explored by RNA sequencing and the identified hub genes were validated by real-time quantitative PCR and western blotting. Finally, the in vivo anti-tumor activity of AKBA was evaluated against a human glioblastoma cell line, U87-MG, in a xenograft mouse model.
Results: AKBA inhibited cell proliferation, caused the release of LDH, decreased DNA synthesis, and inhibited the migration, invasion, and colony formation of U251 and U87-MG human glioblastoma cell lines. AKBA increased apoptosis as well as the activity of caspase 3/7 and the protein expression of cleaved-caspase 3 and cleaved PARP, while decreasing mitochondrial membrane potential. RNA-sequencing analyses showed that AKBA suppressed the expression of pRB, FOXM1, Aurora A, PLK1, CDC25C, p-CDK1, cyclinB1, Aurora B, and TOP2A while increasing the expression of p21 and GADD45A. These findings were validated by qRT-PCR and western blotting. The data are consistent with a mechanism in which AKBA arrested the cell cycle in glioblastoma cells at the G2/M phase by regulating the p21/FOXM1/cyclin B1 pathway, inhibited mitosis by downregulating the Aurora B/TOP2A pathway, and induced mitochondrial-dependent apoptosis. Oral administration of AKBA (100 mg/kg) significantly suppressed the tumorigenicity of U87-MG cells in a xenograft mouse model.
Conclusions: Taken together, these results suggest that AKBA (molecular weight, 512.7 Da) might be a promising chemotherapy drug in the treatment of GBM.
Keywords: AKBA; Apoptosis; Cell cycle; Glioblastoma; p21/FOXM1/cyclin B1.