Autophagy is a potential target for the treatment of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Because of a lack of targeted therapies for TNBC, it is vital to find optimal agents that avoid chemoresistance and metastasis. Flavopereirine has anti-proliferation ability in cancer cells, but whether it regulates autophagy in breast cancer cells remains unclear. A Premo™ Tandem Autophagy Sensor Kit was used to image the stage at which flavopereirine affects autophagy by confocal microscopy. A plasmid that constitutively expresses p-AKT and siRNA targeting p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) was used to confirm the related signaling pathways by Western blot. We found that flavopereirine induced microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3)-II accumulation in a dose- and time-dependent manner in MDA-MB-231 cells. Confocal florescent images showed that flavopereirine blocked autophagosome fusion with lysosomes. Western blotting showed that flavopereirine directly suppressed p-AKT levels and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) translation. Recovery of AKT phosphorylation decreased the level of p-p38 MAPK and LC3-II, but not mTOR. Moreover, flavopereirine-induced LC3-II accumulation was partially reduced in MDA-MB-231 cells that were transfected with p38 MAPK siRNA. Overall, flavopereirine blocked autophagy via LC3-II accumulation in autophagosomes, which was mediated by the AKT/p38 MAPK signaling pathway.
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