Research Paper Volume 13, Issue 17 pp 21251—21267
Betulinic acid induces autophagy-dependent apoptosis via Bmi-1/ROS/AMPK-mTOR-ULK1 axis in human bladder cancer cells
- 1 Department of Urology, The First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou 310003, Zhejiang, P.R. China
Received: March 5, 2021 Accepted: August 9, 2021 Published: September 12, 2021https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.203441
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Copyright: © 2021 Zhang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Betulinic acid (BA), a pentacyclic triterpenoid isolated from tree bark, exhibits antitumor effects against solid malignancies and triggers autophagy and/or apoptosis in human cancer cells. Nonetheless, the relationship between autophagy and apoptosis and the potential modulatory actions of BA on autophagy-dependent bladder cancer cell death remain unclear. The present study showed that BA exposure significantly suppressed viability, proliferation, and migration of EJ and T24 human bladder cancer cells. These effects reflected caspase 3-mediated apoptosis and could be attenuated or abolished by inhibiting ROS production with N-acetyl-L-cysteine, inhibiting autophagy with chloroquine, or silencing ATG7 with targeted siRNA. BA-induced autophagy was evidenced by epifluorescence imaging of lentivirus-induced expression of mCherry-GFP-LC3B and increased expression of two autophagy-related proteins, LC3B-II and TEM. Moreover, enhanced AMPK phosphorylation and decreased mTOR and ULK-1 phosphorylation suggested BA activates autophagy via the AMPK/mTOR/ULK1 pathway. Accordingly, exposure to dorsomorphin (Compound C), an AMPK inhibitor, and AICAR, an AMPK activator, respectively inhibited and stimulated BA-induced autophagy in EJ and T24 cells. The effects of Bmi-1 overexpression in vitro and decreased Bmi-1 expression in BA-treated T24 cell xenografts in nude mice suggested that downregulation of Bmi-1 is the underlying mechanism in BA-mediated, autophagy-dependent apoptosis.