Purpose. Polycarpine from ascidian Polycarpa aurata was previously found to be active against different human tumor cells. In this study, we investigated the antitumor mechanisms of polycarpine and its synthetic derivative, desmethoxyethoxy-polycarpine (dimethylpolycarpine), through the induction of apoptosis. This new knowledge regarding the proapoptotic action of polycarpine and dimethylpolycarpine should lead to a better understanding of their effects and development of a new class of anticancer drugs. Methods. Apoptosis was clearly observed by flow cytometry and Western blotting using an antibody against cleaved caspase-3 as an apoptotic marker. Results. Polycarpines differentially activated p38 kinase, JNKs, and ERKs in JB6 Cl 41 cells. The polycarpines-induced apoptosis was decreased in cells expressing a dominant-negative mutant of JNK. Both compounds stimulated p53-dependent transcriptional activity and phosphorylation. Induction of p53-phosphorylation at serine 15 was suppressed in JNK1 and JNK2 knockout cells. Furthermore, polycarpines were unable to induce apoptosis in p53-deficient MEFs in contrast to a strong induction of apoptosis in wild type MEFs, suggesting that p53 is involved in apoptosis induced by polycarpines. The p53 phosphorylation in turn was mediated by activated JNKs. Conclusions. These results indicate that all three MAPK signaling pathways are involved in the response of JB6 cells to treatment with polycarpines. Evidence also supports a proapoptotic role of the JNKs signaling pathway in vivo and clearly indicates that JNKs are required for phosphorylation of c-Jun, activation of p53, and subsequent apoptosis induced by polycarpines.
- Nanticancer action