Journal Article Withaferin-A kills cancer cells with and without telomerase: chemical, computational and experimental evidences

Yu, Yue  ,  Katiyar, Shashank P  ,  Sundar, Durai  ,  Kaul, Zeenia  ,  Miyako, Eijiro  ,  Zhang, Zhenya  ,  Kaul, Sunil C  ,  Reddel, Roger R  ,  Wadhwa, Renu

8p.e2755 , 2017-04 , Nature Publishing Group
Maintenance of telomere length is the most consistent attribute of cancer cells. Tightly connected to their capacity to overcome replicative mortality, it is achieved either by activation of telomerase or an Alternative mechanism of Lengthening of Telomeres (ALT). Disruption of either of these mechanisms has been shown to induce DNA damage signalling leading to senescence or apoptosis. Telomerase inhibitors are considered as potential anticancer drugs but are ineffective for ALT cancers (~15% of all cancers). Withaferin-A (Wi-A), a major constituent of the medicinal plant, Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha), has been shown to exert anti-tumour activity. However, its effect on either telomerase or ALT mechanisms has not been investigated. Here, by using isogenic cancer cells with/without telomerase, we found that Wi-A caused stronger cytotoxicity to ALT cells. It was associated with inhibition of ALT-associated promyelocytic leukemia nuclear bodies, an established marker of ALT. Comparative analyses of telomerase positive and ALT cells revealed that Wi-A caused stronger telomere dysfunction and upregulation of DNA damage response in ALT cells. Molecular computational and experimental analyses revealed that Wi-A led to Myc-Mad mediated transcriptional suppression of NBS-1, an MRN complex protein that is an essential component of the ALT mechanism. The results suggest that Wi-A could be a new candidate drug for ALT cancers.

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