Though Atorvastatin has been used as a hypolipidemic agent, its anticancer mechanisms for repurposing are not fully understood so far. Thus, in the current study, its apoptotic and autophagic mechanisms were investigated in non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs). Atorvastatin increased cytotoxicity, sub G1 population, the number of apoptotic bodies, cleaved poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) and caspase 3 and activated p53 in H1299, H596, and H460 cells. Notably, Atorvastatin inhibited the expression of c-Myc and induced ribosomal protein L5 and L11, but depletion of L5 reduced PARP cleavages induced by Atorvastatin rather than L11 in H1299 cells. Also, Atorvastatin increased autophagy microtubule-associated protein 1A/1B-light chain 3II (LC3 II) conversion, p62/sequestosome 1 (SQSTM1) accumulation with increased number of LC3II puncta in H1299 cells. However, late stage autophagy inhibitor chloroquine (CQ) increased cytotoxicity in Atorvastatin treated H1299 cells compared to early stage autophagy inhibitor 3-methyladenine (3-MA). Furthermore, autophagic flux assay using RFP-GFP-LC3 constructs and Lysotracker Red or acridine orange-staining demonstrated that autophagosome-lysosome fusion is blocked by Atorvastatin treatment in H1299 cells. Conversely, overexpression of CCR4-NOT transcription complex subunit 2(CNOT2) weakly reversed the ability of Atorvastatin to increase cytotoxicity, sub G1 population, cleavages of PARP and caspase 3, LC3II conversion and p62/SQSTM1 accumulation in H1299 cells. In contrast, CNOT2 depletion enhanced cleavages of PARP and caspase 3, LC3 conversion and p62/SQSTM1 accumulation in Atorvastatin treated H1299 cells. Overall, these findings suggest that CNOT2 signaling is critically involved in Atorvastatin induced apoptotic and autophagic cell death in NSCLCs.
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