Fish-oil-derived eicosapentaenoic acid decreases survivin expression and induces wt-p53 accumulation with caspase-3 activation in acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells

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Defects in modulating wild-type (wt) p53 and survivin are associated with a resistant disease in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Yet, no wt-p53 and survivin modulating drugs have been approved for clinical application in ALL. Here, we investigated if in vitro eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) concentrations equal to human plasma levels are able to target wt-p53 and survivin.


Wt-p53 Molt-4 cells (ALL cell line) were treated with 50, 100, 150, and 200 µM of EPA after which cell number, viability, proliferation rate, survivin expression, wt-p53 accumulation, caspase-3 activation, and apoptosis were evaluated.


After 48- and 72-h treatments with EPA at concentrations ranging from 50 to 200 µM, cell proliferation rates were measured to be 71.5–32.6% and 68.2–13.7% and metabolic activities were measured to be 77–44% and 71–26%, respectively. Treatment with 50–200 µM of EPA for 48 h resulted in 14.1–74.6% and 69.5–45.5% decreases in survivin mRNA and protein levels, respectively. EPA induced 1.3–6 and 1.9–20-fold increases in caspase-3 activation and wt-p53 accumulation, respectively. Increase in wt-p53/survivin and caspase-3/survivin ratios from 1 in untreated cells to 20.3 and 5.8 was measured for 150 µM of EPA. Low necrotic rates ranging from 0.3% to 2.8% and an increase in the number of total apoptotic cells (early + late) ranging from 9.8% to 81% were also observed with increasing EPA concentrations.


EPA induces strongly wt-p53 with a remarkable decrease in survivin expression, representing an attractive compound to modulate wt-p53 and survivin in ALL cells.

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