Background: Fisetin (3,7,3′,4′-tetrahydroxyflavone) is a dietary flavonol and exhibits antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective activities. However, high concentration of fisetin is reported to produce reactive oxygen species (ROS), induce endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and cause cytotoxicity in cancer cells. The aim of this study is to investigate the cytoprotective effects of low concentration of fisetin against tunicamycin (Tm)-mediated cytotoxicity in neuronal-like catecholaminergic PC12 cells. Methods: Cell viability was assayed by MTT (3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide) and apoptotic and autophagic markers were analyzed by Western blot. Gene expression of unfolded protein response (UPR) and Phase II enzymes was further investigated using RT-Q-PCR or Western blotting. Intracellular ROS level was measured using 2′,7′-dichlorodihydrofluorescein diacetate (H2
DCFDA) by a fluorometer. The effects of fisetin on mitogen activated protein kinases (MAPKs) and SIRT1 (Sirtuin 1) signaling pathways were examined using Western blotting and specific inhibitors. Results: Fisetin (<20 µM) restored cell viability and repressed apoptosis, autophagy and ROS production in Tm-treated cells. Fisetin attenuated Tm-mediated expression of ER stress genes, such as glucose-regulated proteins 78 (GRP78), C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP also known as GADD153) and Tribbles homolog 3 (TRB3), but induced the expression of nuclear E2 related factor (Nrf)2-targeted heme oxygenase (HO)-1, glutamate cysteine ligase (GCL) and cystine/glutamate transporter (xCT/SLC7A11), in both the presence and absence of Tm. Moreover, fisetin enhanced phosphorylation of ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase), JNK (c-JUN NH2
-terminal protein kinase), and p38 MAPK. Addition of JNK and p38 MAPK inhibitor significantly antagonized its cytoprotective activity and modulatory effects on UPR. Fisetin also restored Tm-inhibited SIRT1 expression and addition of sirtinol (SIRT1 activation inhibitor) significantly blocked fisetin-mediated cytoprotection. In conclusion, this result shows that fisetin activates Nrf2, MAPK and SIRT1, which may elicit adaptive cellular stress response pathways so as to protect cells from Tm-induced cytotoxicity.
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