Induction of cancer cell apoptosis by alpha-tocopheryl succinate: molecular pathways and structural requirements

Published on Friday, 15 February 2013


The vitamin E analog alpha-tocopheryl succinate (alpha-TOS) can induce apoptosis. We show that the proapoptotic activity of alpha-TOS in hematopoietic and cancer cell lines involves inhibition of protein kinase C (PKC), since phorbol myristyl acetate prevented alpha-TOS-triggered apoptosis.

More selective effectors indicated that alpha-TOS reduced PKCalpha isotype activity by increasing protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) activity. The role of PKCalpha inhibition in alpha-TOS-induced apoptosis was confirmed using antisense oligonucleotides or PKCalpha overexpression. Gain- or loss-of-function bcl-2 mutants implied modulation of bcl-2 activity by PKC/PP2A as a mitochondrial target of alpha-TOS-induced proapoptotic signals.

Structural analogs revealed that alpha-tocopheryl and succinyl moieties are both required for maximizing these effects. In mice with colon cancer xenografts, alpha-TOS suppressed tumor growth by 80%. This epitomizes cancer cell killing by a pharmacologically relevant compound without known side effects.



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