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Clioquinol and pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate complex with copper to form proteasome inhibitors and apoptosis inducers in human breast cancer cells

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      A physiological feature of many tumor tissues and cells is the tendency to accumulate high concentrations of copper. While the precise role of copper in tumors is cryptic, copper, but not other trace metals, is required for angiogenesis. We have recently reported that organic copper-containing compounds, including 8-hydroxyquinoline-copper(II) and 5,7-dichloro-8-hydroxyquinoline-copper(II), comprise a novel class of proteasome inhibitors and tumor cell apoptosis inducers. In the current study, we investigate whether clioquinol (CQ), an analog of 8-hydroxyquinoline and an Alzheimer's disease drug, and pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate (PDTC), a known copper-binding compound and antioxidant, can interact with copper to form cancer-specific proteasome inhibitors and apoptosis inducers in human breast cancer cells. Tetrathiomolybdate (TM), a strong copper chelator currently being tested in clinical trials, is used as a comparison.


      Breast cell lines, normal, immortalized MCF-10A, premalignant MCF10AT1K.cl2, and malignant and MDA-MB-231, were treated with CQ or PDTC with or without prior interaction with copper, followed by measurement of proteasome inhibition and cell death. Inhibition of the proteasome was determined by levels of the proteasomal chymotrypsin-like activity and ubiquitinated proteins in protein extracts of the treated cells. Apoptotic cell death was measured by morphological changes, Hoechst staining, and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase cleavage.


      When in complex with copper, both CQ and PDTC, but not TM, can inhibit the proteasome chymotrypsin-like activity, block proliferation, and induce apoptotic cell death preferentially in breast cancer cells, less in premalignant breast cells, but are non-toxic to normal/non-transformed breast cells at the concentrations tested. In contrast, CQ, PDTC, TM or copper alone had no effects on any of the cells. Breast premalignant or cancer cells that contain copper at concentrations similar to those found in patients, when treated with just CQ or PDTC alone, but not TM, undergo proteasome inhibition and apoptosis.


      The feature of breast cancer cells and tissues to accumulate copper can be used as a targeting method for anticancer therapy through treatment with novel compounds such as CQ and PDTC that become active proteasome inhibitors and breast cancer cell killers in the presence of copper.

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      Most cited references 69

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      Caspases: enemies within.

      Apoptosis, an evolutionarily conserved form of cell suicide, requires specialized machinery. The central component of this machinery is a proteolytic system involving a family of proteases called caspases. These enzymes participate in a cascade that is triggered in response to proapoptotic signals and culminates in cleavage of a set of proteins, resulting in disassembly of the cell. Understanding caspase regulation is intimately linked to the ability to rationally manipulate apoptosis for therapeutic gain.
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        Cleavage of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase by a proteinase with properties like ICE.

        Recent studies suggest that proteases of the interleukin 1-beta-converting enzyme (ICE)/ced-3 family are involved in initiating the active phase of apoptosis. Here we identify a novel protease resembling ICE (prICE) that is active in a cell-free system that reproduces the morphological and biochemical events of apoptosis. prICE cleaves the nuclear enzyme poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) at a tetrapeptide sequence identical to one of two ICE sites in pro-interleukin-1-beta. However, prICE does not cleave purified pro-interleukin-1-beta, and purified ICE does not cleave PARP, indicating that the two activities are distinct. Inhibition of prICE abolishes all manifestations of apoptosis in the extracts including morphological changes, cleavage of PARP and production of an oligonucleosomal ladder. These studies suggest that prICE might be pivotal in initiating the active phase of apoptosis in vitro and in intact cells.
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          Cell death: the significance of apoptosis.


            Author and article information

            [1 ]The Prevention Program, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, and Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA
            [2 ]The Breast Cancer Program, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, and Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA
            Breast Cancer Res
            Breast Cancer Research
            BioMed Central (London )
            20 September 2005
            : 7
            : 6
            : R897-R908
            Copyright © 2005 Daniel et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

            Research Article

            Oncology & Radiotherapy


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