Objective: Withaferin A (WA) is a bioactive compound with a remarkable anti-cancer effect derived from Withania somnifera, commonly known as ashwagandha. However, the anti-cancer mechanisms of WA in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) are still unclear.
Materials and methods: Cell viability assays and xenografted nude mice were used to evaluate the effects of WA, along with flow cytometry to detect apoptosis and cell cycle of GBM. RNA-seq analysis, Western blotting, immunofluorescence staining, qRT-PCR and siRNA gene silencing were carried out to determine the signalling pathways affected by WA.
Results: Withaferin A significantly inhibited the growth of GBM in vitro and in vivo and triggered the intrinsic apoptosis of GBM cells by up-regulating expression of Bim and Bad. WA arrested GBM cells at the G2/M phase of the cell cycle through dephosphorylating Thr161 of CDK1 by activating p53-independent p21 up-regulation. Knockdown of p21 restored cell cycle progression and cell viability by down-regulating the expression of Bad rather than Bim. We demonstrated that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress induced by WA through the ATF4-ATF3-CHOP axis, initiated apoptosis and G2/M arrest in GBM cells.
Conclusion: We revealed a novel pathway that elucidated WA activation of apoptosis and G2/M arrest in GBM cells through the ATF4-ATF3-CHOP axis. This discovery is important for optimization of WA-based regimens for prevention and/or treatment of GBM.
Keywords: apoptosis; cell cycle; endoplasmic reticulum; glioblastoma; unfolded protein response.
© 2019 The Authors. Cell Proliferation Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.