Pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2) is a key enzyme responsible for the final step of glycolysis. It is still unclear whether PKM2 is involved in reactive oxygen species (ROS)-mediated cytotoxicity in gastrointestinal cancer, and what mechanisms are involved. One duodenal (AZ521) and two gastric (NUGC and SCM-1) cancer cell lines were treated with an indole-3-carbinol derivative OSU-A9, which caused cytotoxicity in acute myeloid leukemia through ROS generation. OSU-A9 caused a dose- and time-dependent cytotoxicity and induced apoptosis in duodenal and gastric cancer cells through ROS generation. Pretreatment with ROS scavengers rescued cancer cells from apoptosis and concomitant poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase cleavage, implying a key role of ROS in OSU-A9-induced cell death. Moreover, OSU-A9-induced ROS generation decreased protein levels of pTyr105-PKM2, and this effect was rescued by pretreatment with ROS scavengers. Interestingly, pTyr105-PKM2 protein levels decreased in the cell nucleus rather than in the cytoplasm. PKM2 overexpression partially rescued the survival of duodenal and gastric cancer cells treated with OSU-A9. Furthermore, the anticancer activity of OSU-A9 extended in vivo, as OSU-A9 administered by oral gavage suppressed the growth of AZ521 xenograft tumors in nude mice without obvious toxicity. In conclusion, OSU-A9 inhibited duodenal and gastric cancer cell proliferation through ROS generation and caused a subsequent decrease in nuclear pTyr105-PKM2 protein. These findings provide evidence for the non-canonical activity of PKM2 in cancer cell survival. Furthermore, they highlight the potential role of PKM2 as a future therapeutic target for duodenal and gastric cancer.
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