Prodigiosin (PG) belongs to a family of prodiginines isolated from gram-negative bacteria. It is a water insoluble red pigment and a potent proapoptotic compound. This study elucidates the anti-tumor activity and underlying mechanism of PG in doxorubicin-sensitive (Dox-S) and doxorubicin-resistant (Dox-R) lung cancer cells. The cytotoxicity and cell death characteristics of PG in two cells were measured by MTT assay, cell cycle analysis, and apoptosis/autophagic marker analysis. Then, the potential mechanism of PG-induced cell death was evaluated through the phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase-p85/Protein kinase B /mammalian target of rapamycin (PI3K-p85/Akt/mTOR) and Beclin-1/phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase-Class III (Beclin-1/PI3K-Class III) signaling. Finally, in vivo efficacy was examined by intratracheal inoculation and treatment. There was similar cytotoxicity with PG in both Dox-S and Dox-R cells, where the half maximal inhibitory concentrations (IC50
) were all in 10 μM. Based on a non-significant increase in the sub-G1
phase with an increase of microtubule-associated proteins 1A/1B light chain 3B-phosphatidylethanolamine conjugate (LC3-II), the cell death of both cells was categorized to achieve autophagy. Interestingly, an increase in cleaved-poly ADP ribose polymerase (cleaved-PARP) also showed the existence of an apoptosis-sensitive subpopulation. In both Dox-S and Dox-R cells, PI3K-p85/Akt/mTOR signaling pathways were reduced, which inhibited autophagy initiation. However, Beclin-1/PI3K-Class III downregulation implicated non-canonical autophagy pathways were involved in PG-induced autophagy. At completion of the PG regimen, tumors accumulated in the mice trachea and were attenuated by PG treatment, which indicated the efficacy of PG for both Dox-S and Dox-R lung cancer. All the above results concluded that PG is a potential chemotherapeutic agent for lung cancer regimens regardless of doxorubicin resistance.
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