Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved protein degradation pathway. A defect in autophagy may contribute to tumorigenesis. Autophagy inducers could have a potential function in tumor prevention and treatment.
Our results showed that Rhabdastrellic acid-A, an isomalabaricane triterpenoid isolated from the sponge Rhabdastrella globostellata, inhibited proliferation of human cancer cell lines Hep3B and A549 and induced caspase-independent cell death in both the cell lines. Further investigation showed that Rhabdastrellic acid-A induced autophagy of cancer cells determined by YFP-LC3 punctation and increased LC3-II. The pretreatment with autophagy inhibitor 3-MA inhibited Rhabdastrellic acid-A-induced cell death. Knockdown of autophagy-related gene Atg5 inhibited Rhabdastrellic acid-A-induced cell death in A549 cells. Also, phospho-Akt and its downstream targets significantly decreased after treatment with Rhabdastrellic acid-A in both cancer cell lines. Transfection of constitutive active Akt plasmid abrogated autophagy and cell death induced by Rhabdastrellic acid-A.
These results suggest that Rhabdastrellic acid-A could induce autophagy-associated cell death through blocking Akt pathway in cancer cells. It also provides the evidence that Rhabdastrellic acid-A deserves further investigation as a potential anticancer or cancer preventive agent.