Phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) is a potential chemopreventive agent that is present naturally in widely consumed vegetables, especially in watercress. It has been extensively investigated for its anticancer activities against lung, forestomach and esophageal tumorigenesis. Here we investigated the pro-apoptotic effect of PEITC in HT-29 human colorectal carcinoma cell line, and the mechanism of apoptosis induced by PEITC. PEITC-induced apoptosis was determined by DNA fragmentation assay and diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) staining technique. To understand the mechanisms of apoptosis induced by PEITC, we studied the role of caspases, mitochondria-cytochrome c release, and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways involved in PEITC-induced apoptosis in HT-29 cells. Both the caspase-3 and -9 activities were stimulated by PEITC. The release of cytochrome c from the mitochondrial inter-space was time- and dose-dependent, with a maximal release at 50 μM after 10 h treatment. Three MAPKs [JNK (c-Jun N-terminal kinase), extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK) and p38 kinase] were activated shortly after PEITC treatment in HT-29 cells. Importantly, the SP600125 compound, an anthrapyrazolone inhibitor of JNK, but not the ERK and p38 inhibitor, suppressed apoptosis induced by PEITC. Similarly, this JNK inhibitor attenuated both cytochrome c release and caspase-3 activation induced by PEITC. In summary, this study shows that PEITC can induce apoptosis in HT-29 cells in a time- and dose-dependent manner via the mitochondria caspase cascade, and the activation of JNK is critical for the initiation of the apoptotic processes. This mechanism of PEITC may play an important role in the killing of cancerous cells and offer a potential mechanism for its anticancer action in vivo.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study is supported by grant R01-CA073647-04 from the National Institute of Health (NIH). We thank Dr Eileen P.White for providing the UltraCentrifuge, Dr Peter Lobel for providing CytoFluro II fluorescence plate reader and Dr Debra L.Laskin for fluorescence microscopy.