Glucose deprivation and hypoxia frequently occur in solid tumor cells, including pancreatic cancer cells. Glucose deprivation activates the unfolded protein response (UPR) and causes the upregulation of glucose-regulated protein 78 (GRP78). Induction of GRP78 has been shown to protect cancer cells. Therefore, shutting down of GRP78 expression may be a novel strategy in anticancer drug development. Based on this understanding, a screening system established for anticancer agents that exhibit selective cytotoxicity on pancreatic cancer cells under glucose-deprived conditions. To test this hypothesis, the new compounds isolated, pancastatin A (PST-A) and B (PSTB), from Ponciri Fructus. PST-A and B were identified as glabretal triterpenoid moieties by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopic methods. PST-A and B suppressed the accumulation of the UPR hallmark gene, GRP78, during glucose deprivation. Furthermore, PST-A and B showed selective cytotoxicity on PANC-1 pancreatic cancer cells under glucose deprivation. Interestingly, PST-A and B had no effect on these cells under normal growth conditions. Our results suggest that PST-A and B act as novel therapeutic agents to induce selective cell death in glucose-deprived pancreatic cancer cells.
Keywords: GRP78; Pancastatin A; glucose deprivation; pancastatin B; pancreatic cancer.