Mitochondria play a central role in apoptosis induced by α-Tocopheryl succinate, an agent with antineoplastic activity: Comparison with receptor-mediated pro-apoptotic signaling
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a-Tocopheryl succinate (a-TOS) is a semisynthetic vitamin E analogue with high pro-apoptotic and anti-neoplastic activity [Weber, T et al. (2002) Clin. Cancer Res. 8, 863-869]. Previous studies suggested that it acts through destabilization of subcellular organelles, including mitochondria, but compelling evidence is missing. Cells treated with a-TOS showed altered mitochondrial structure, generation of free radicals, activation of the sphingomyelin cycle, relocalization of cytochrome c and Smac/Diablo, and activation of multiple caspases. A pan-caspase inhibitor suppressed caspase-3 and -6 activation and phosphatidyl serine externalization, but not decrease of mitochondrial membrane potential or generation of radicals. For a-TOS, but not Fas or TRAIL, apoptosis was suppressed by caspase-9 inhibition, while TRAIL- and Fas-resistant cells overexpressing cFLIP or CrmA were susceptible to a-TOS. The central role of mitochondria was confirmed by resistance of mtDNA-deficient cells to a-TOS, by regulation of a-TOS apoptosis by Bcl-2 family members, and by anti-apoptotic activity of mitochondrially targeted radical scavengers. Co-treatment with a-TOS and anti-Fas IgM showed their cooperative effect, probably by signaling via different, convergent pathways. These data provide an insight into the molecular mechanism, by which a-TOS kills malignant cells, and advocate its testing as a potential anticancer agent or adjuvant.
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