Triapine (3-AP; 3-aminopyridine-2-carboxaldehyde thiosemicarbazone), a ribonucleotide reductase inhibitor, has been extensively evaluated in clinical trials in the last decade. This study addresses the role of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in the anticancer activity of 3-AP and the derivative N4,N4-dimethyltriapine (3-AP-Me), differing from 3-AP only by dimethylation of the terminal nitrogen. Treatment of colon cancer cells with 3-AP or 3-AP-Me activated all three ER stress pathways (PERK, IRE1a, ATF6) by phosphorylation of eIF2a and upregulation of gene expression of activating transcription factors ATF4 and ATF6. In particular, 3-AP-Me led to an upregulation of the alternatively spliced mRNA variant XBP1 (16-fold). Moreover, 3-AP and 3-AP-Me activated the cellular stress kinases c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases, and inhibition of JNK activity antagonized the cytotoxic effect of both compounds. Subsequent to induction of the unfolded protein response, a significant upregulation of proapoptotic proteins was detected, including the transcription factor CHOP and Bim, an essential factor for ER stress-related apoptosis. In correlation with the higher degree of ER stress after 3-AP-Me treatment, also a more potent depolarization of mitochondrial membranes was found. These data suggest that 3-AP and 3-AP-Me induce apoptosis via ER stress. This was further corroborated by showing that inhibition of protein biosynthesis with cycloheximide prior to 3-AP and 3-AP-Me treatment leads to a significant reduction of the antiproliferative properties of both compounds. Taken together, this study demonstrates that induction of ER stress contributes to the mode of action of 3-AP and that terminal dimethylation leads to an even more pronounced manifestation of this effect.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine