Cordyceps militaris extract induces apoptosis and pyroptosis via caspase-3/PARP/GSDME pathways in A549 cell line

Food Sci Nutr. 2021 Oct 30;10(1):21-38. doi: 10.1002/fsn3.2636. eCollection 2022 Jan.


Cordyceps militaris (CM) is traditionally used as dietary therapy for lung cancer patients in China. CM extract (CME) is hydrosoluble fraction of CM and extensively investigated. Caspase-3-involved cell death is considered as its major anticancer mechanism but inconclusive. Therefore, we explore its caspase-3-dependent programmed cell death nature (apoptosis and pyroptosis) and validate its caspase-3-dependent property in loss-of-function experiment. Component profile of CME is detected by High Performance Liquid Chromatography- quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (HPLC-qTOF). Results show that CME causes pyroptosis-featured cell bubbling and cell lysis and inhibits cell proliferation in A549 cell. CME induces chromatin condensing and makes PI+/annexin V+ staining in bubbling cells, indicating genotoxicity, apoptosis, and pyroptosis cell death are caused by CME. High concentration of CME (200 μg/ml) exerts G2/M and G0 cell cycles arresting and suppresses P53-downstream proliferative proteins, including P53, P21, CDC25B, CyclinB1, Bcl-2, and BCL2 associated agonist of cell death (BAD), but 1-100 μg/ml of CME show less effect on proteins above. Correspondingly, caspase-3 activity and caspase-3 downstream proteins including pyroptotic effector gasdermin-E (GSDME) and apoptotic marker cleaved-poly-ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) are significantly promoted by CME. Moreover, regarding membrane pore formation in pyroptotic cell, expression of membrane GSDME (GSDME antibody conjugated with PE-Cy7 for detection in flow cytometry) is remarkably increased by CME treatment. By contrast, other pyroptosis-related proteins such as P2X7, NLRP3, GSDMD, and Caspase-1 are not affected after CME treatment. Additionally, TET2 is unexpectedly raised by CME. In present of caspase-3 inhibitor Ac-DEVD-CHO (Ac-DC), CME-induced cytotoxicity, cell bubbling, and genotoxicity are reduced, and CME-induced upregulation of apoptosis (cleaved-PARP-1) and pyroptosis (GSDME-NT) proteins are reversed. Lastly, 22 components are identified in HPLC-qTOF experiment, and they are classified into trophism, neoadjuvant component, cytotoxic component, and cancer deterioration promoter according to previous references. Conclusively, CME causes caspase-3-dependent apoptosis and pyroptosis in A549 through caspase-3/PARP and caspase-3/GSDME pathways, and it provides basic insight into clinic application of CME for cancer patients.

Keywords: A549; Cordyceps militaris; anticancer; apoptosis; pyroptosis.