ACT001 inhibits pituitary tumor growth by inducing autophagic cell death via MEK4/MAPK pathway

Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2022 Jan 26. doi: 10.1038/s41401-021-00856-5. Online ahead of print.


ACT001, derived from traditional herbal medicine, is a novel compound with effective anticancer activity in clinical trials. However, little is known regarding its role in pituitary adenomas. Here, we demonstrated that ACT001 suppressed cell proliferation and induced cell death of pituitary tumor cells in vitro and in vivo. ACT001 was also effective in suppressing the growth of different subtypes of human pituitary adenomas. The cytotoxic mechanism ACT001 employed was mainly related to autophagic cell death (ACD), indicated by autophagosome formation and LC3-II accumulation. In addition, ACT001-mediated inhibitory effect decreased when either ATG7 was downregulated or cells were cotreated with autophagy inhibitor 3-methyladenine (3-MA). RNA-seq analysis showed that mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway was a putative target of ACT001. Specifically, ACT001 treatment promoted the phosphorylation of JNK and P38 by binding to mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 4 (MEK4). Our study indicated that ACT001-induced ACD of pituitary tumor cells via activating JNK and P38 phosphorylation by binding with MEK4, and it might be a novel and effective anticancer drug for pituitary adenomas.

Keywords: ACT001; JNK; MEK4; P38; autophagic cell death; pituitary adenoma.