Background: β-thujaplicin, a natural tropolone derivative, has anticancer effects on various cancer cells via apoptosis. However, the apoptosis regulatory proteins involved in this process have yet to be revealed. Methods: Trypan blue staining, a WST-8 assay, and a caspase-3/7 activity assay were used to investigate whether β-thujaplicin sensitizes cancer cells to TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)-mediated apoptosis. Additionally, western blotting was performed to clarify the effects of β-thujaplicin on X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP) in NCI-H460 cells and a fluorescence polarization binding assay was used to evaluate the binding-inhibitory activity of β-thujaplicin against XIAP-BIR3. Results: β- and γ-thujaplicins decreased the viability of NCI-H460 cells in a dose-dependent manner; they also sensitized the cells to TRAIL-induced cell growth inhibition and apoptosis. β-thujaplicin significantly potentiated the apoptosis induction effect of TRAIL on NCI-H460 cells, which was accompanied by enhanced caspase-3/7 activity. Interestingly, β-thujaplicin treatment in NCI-H460 cells decreased XIAP levels. Furthermore, β-thujaplicin was able to bind XIAP-BIR3 at the Smac binding site. Conclusions: These findings indicate that β-thujaplicin could enhance TRAIL-induced apoptosis in NCI-H460 cells via XIAP inhibition and degradation. Thus, the tropolone scaffold may be useful for designing novel nonpeptidic small-molecule inhibitors of XIAP and developing new types of anticancer drugs.
Keywords: NCI-H460 cells; TRAIL; XIAP; apoptosis; cancer; β-thujaplicin.