Emodin induces ferroptosis in colorectal cancer through NCOA4-mediated ferritinophagy and NF-κb pathway inactivation

Apoptosis. 2024 May 5. doi: 10.1007/s10495-024-01973-2. Online ahead of print.


Ferroptosis is a new programmed cell death characterized by iron-dependent lipid peroxidation. Targeting ferroptosis is considered a promising strategy for anti-cancer therapy. Recently, natural compound has gained increased attention for their advantage in cancer treatment, and the exploration of natural compounds as ferroptosis inducers offers a hopeful avenue for advancing cancer treatment modalities. Emodin is a natural anthraquinone derivative in many widely used Chinese medicinal herbs. In our previous study, we predicted that the anti-cancer effect of Emodin might related to ferroptosis by using RNA-seq in colorectal cancer (CRC). Thus, in this study, we aim to investigate the molecular mechanism underlying Emodin-mediated ferroptosis in CRC. Cell-based assays including CCK-8, colony formation, EdU, and Annexin V/PI staining were employed to assess Emodin's impact on cell proliferation and apoptosis. Furthermore, various techniques such as FerroOrange staining, C11-BODIPY 581/591 staining, iron, MDA, GSH detection assay and transmission electron microscopy were performed to examine the role of Emodin in ferroptosis. Additionally, specific NCOA4 knockdown cell lines were generated to elucidate the involvement of NCOA4 in Emodin-induced ferroptosis. Moreover, the effects of Emodin on ferroptosis were further confirmed through the application of inhibitors, including Ferrostatin-1, 3-MA, DFO, and PMA. As a results, Emodin inhibited proliferation and induced apoptosis in CRC cells. Emodin could decrease GSH content, xCT and GPX4 expression, meanwhile increasing ROS generation, MDA, and lipid peroxidation, and these effects could reverse by ferroptosis inhibitor, Ferostatin-1, iron chelator DFO, autophagy inhibitor 3-MA and NCOA4 silencing. Moreover, Emodin could inactivate NF-κb pathway, and PMA, an activator of NF-κb pathway could alleviate Emodin-induced ferroptosis in CRC cells. Xenograft mouse model also showed that Emodin suppressed tumor growth and induced ferroptosis in vivo. In conclusion, these results suggested that Emodin induced ferroptosis through NCOA4-mediated ferritinophagy by inactivating NF-κb pathway in CRC cells. These findings not only identified a novel role for Emodin in ferroptosis but also indicated that Emodin may be a valuable candidate for the development of an anti-cancer agent.

Keywords: Colorectal cancer; Emodin; Ferritinophagy; Ferroptosis; NCOA4; NF-κb pathway.

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