Pterostilbene is an effective chemopreventive agent against multiple types of cancer cells. A novel pterostilbene derivative, ANK-199, was designed and synthesized by our group. Its antitumor activity and mechanism in cisplatin-resistant CAR human oral cancer cells were investigated in this study. Our results show that ANK-199 has an extremely low toxicity in normal oral cell lines. The formation of autophagic vacuoles and acidic vesicular organelles (AVOs) was observed in the ANK-199-treated CAR cells by monodansylcadaverine (MDC) and acridine orange (AO) staining, suggesting that ANK-199 is able to induce autophagic cell death in CAR cells. Neither DNA fragmentation nor DNA condensation was observed, which means that ANK-199-induced cell death is not triggered by apoptosis. In accordance with morphological observation, 3-MA, a specific inhibitor of PI3K kinase class III, can inhibit the autophagic vesicle formation induced by ANK-199. In addition, ANK-199 is also able to enhance the protein levels of autophagic proteins, Atg complex, beclin 1, PI3K class III and LC3-II, and mRNA expression of autophagic genes Atg7, Atg12, beclin 1 and LC3- II in the ANK-199-treated CAR cells. A molecular signaling pathway induced by ANK-199 was therefore summarized. Results presented in this study show that ANK-199 may become a novel therapeutic reagent for the treatment of oral cancer in the near future (patent pending).
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