Undecylprodigiosin (UP) is a bacterial bioactive metabolite produced by Streptomyces and Serratia. In this study, we explored the anticancer effect of UP. Human breast carcinoma cell lines BT-20, MCF-7, MDA-MB-231 and T47D and one nonmalignant human breast epithelial cell line, MCF-10A, were tested in this study. We found that UP exerted a potent cytotoxicity against all breast carcinoma cell lines in a dose- and time-dependent manner. In contrast, UP showed limited toxicity to MCF-10A cells, indicating UP's cytotoxic effect is selective for malignant cells. UP's cytotoxic effect was due to apoptosis, as confirmed by positive TUNEL signals, annexin V-binding, caspase 9 activation and PARP cleavage. Notably, UP-induced apoptosis was blocked by the pan-caspase inhibitor z-VAD.fmk, further indicating the involvement of caspase activity. Moreover, UP caused a marked decrease of the levels of antiapoptotic BCL-XL, Survivin and XIAP while enhancing the levels of proapoptotic BIK, BIM, MCL-1S and NOXA, consequently favoring induction of apoptosis. Additionally, we found that cells with functional p53 (MCF-7, T47D) or mutant p53 (BT-20, MDA-MB-231) were both susceptible to UP's cytotoxicity. Importantly, UP was able to induce apoptosis in MCF-7 cells with p53 knockdown by RNA interference, confirming the dispensability of p53 in UP-induced apoptosis. Overall, our results establish that UP induces p53-independent apoptosis in breast carcinoma cells with no marked toxicity to nonmalignant cells, raising the possibility of its use as a new chemotherapeutic drug for breast cancer irrespective of p53 status.
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