Agaritine from Agaricus blazei Murrill induces apoptosis in the leukemic cell line U937

BACKGROUND:
Agaricus blazei Murrill (ABM) has been shown to exhibit immunostimulatory and anti-cancer activities; however, its mechanism of action is poorly understood. We recently found that the diffusible fraction of hot-water extract of ABM exhibits anti-tumor activity toward leukemic cells, and identified it as agaritine, a hydrazine-containing compound. In the present study, we examined the morphological and cytochemical effects of agaritine on U937 cells to elucidate the tumoricidal mechanism of agaritine.
METHODS:
Surface expression of phosphatidylserine (evaluated by annexin V binding), Fas antigen, DNA cleavage using TUNEL staining, changes in caspase activities and cytochrome c release, before and after treatment with agaritine, were examined using U937 cells.
RESULTS:
Nuclear damage, DNA fragmentation, was observed by Wright-Giemsa, TUNEL staining and agarose gel electrophoresis when U937 cells were incubated with 10μg/mL of agaritine for 48h. Flow cytometric analysis indicated that agaritine augments the proportion of annexin V-positive U937 cells without significant change in Fas antigen expression. Activities of caspase-3, -8 and -9 were gradually increased after the addition of agaritine. In the presence of caspase-3 or granzyme B inhibitor, except for the caspase-8 inhibitor, annexin V expression was significantly decreased, suggesting that mainly caspase-3 and -9 participate in the apoptotic pathway. Furthermore, cytochrome c release was detected by western blotting analysis after agaritine treatment.
CONCLUSIONS:
These results strongly suggest that the ABM constituent agaritine moderately induces apoptosis in U937 leukemic cells via caspase activation through cytochrome c release from mitochondria.
GENERAL SIGNIFICANCE:
This is the first report suggesting that the anti-tumor effect of agaritine is mediated through apoptosis. The present results might provide helpful suggestions for the design of anti-tumor drugs toward leukemia patients.


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