Carnosol Is a Novel Inhibitor of p300 Acetyltransferase in Breast Cancer

Front Oncol. 2021 May 13:11:664403. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2021.664403. eCollection 2021.


Carnosol, a natural polyphenol abundant in edible plants such as sage, rosemary, and oregano, has shown promising anticancer activity against various types of cancers. Nonetheless, very little is known about its molecular mechanism of action or its downstream target(s). We have previously shown that carnosol inhibits cellular proliferation, migration, invasion, and metastasis as well as triggers autophagy and apoptosis in the highly invasive MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. Here, we report that carnosol induces histone hypoacetylation in MDA-MB-231 and Hs578T breast cancer cells. We show that, while carnosol does not affect HDACs, it promotes a ROS-dependent proteasome degradation of p300 and PCAF histone acetyl transferases (HATs) without affecting other HATs such as GCN5 and hMOF. Carnosol-induced histone hypoacetylation remains persistent even when p300 and PCAF protein levels were rescued from degradation by (i) the inhibition of the proteasome activity by the proteasome inhibitors MG-132 and bortezomib, and (ii) the inhibition of ROS accumulation by the ROS scavenger, N-acetylcysteine. In addition, we report that, in a cell-free system, carnosol efficiently inhibits histone acetyltransferase activity of recombinant p300 but not that of PCAF or GCN5. Molecular docking studies reveal that carnosol inhibits p300 HAT activity by blocking the entry of the acetyl-CoA binding pocket of the catalytic domain. The superimposition of the docked conformation of the p300 HAT domain in complex with carnosol shows a similar orientation as the p300 structure with acetyl-CoA. Carnosol occupies the region where the pantetheine arm of the acetyl-CoA is bound. This study further confirms carnosol as a promising anti-breast cancer therapeutic compound and identifies it as a novel natural p300 inhibitor that could be added to the existing panel of inhibitors.

Keywords: acetyltransferase activity; breast cancer; docking; p300; proteasome degradation; reactive oxygen species.