Mitochondrial targeted curcumin exhibits anticancer effects through disruption of mitochondrial redox and modulation of TrxR2 activity
Mitocurcumin is a derivative of curcumin, which has been shown to selectively enter mitochondria. Here we describe the anti-tumor efficacy of mitocurcumin in lung cancer cells and its mechanism of action. Mitocurcumin, showed 25–50 fold higher efficacy in killing lung cancer cells as compared to curcumin as demonstrated by clonogenic assay, flow cytometry and high throughput screening assay. Treatment of lung cancer cells with mitocurcumin significantly decreased the frequency of cancer stem cells. Mitocurcumin increased the mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS), decreased the mitochondrial glutathione levels and induced strand breaks in the mitochondrial DNA. As a result, we observed increased BAX to BCL-2 ratio, cytochrome C release into the cytosol, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and increased caspase-3 activity suggesting that mitocurcumin activates the intrinsic apoptotic pathway. Docking studies using mitocurcumin revealed that it binds to the active site of the mitochondrial thioredoxin reductase (TrxR2) with high affinity. In corroboration with the above finding, mitocurcumin decreased TrxR activity in cell free as well as the cellular system. The anti-cancer activity of mitocurcumin measured in terms of apoptotic cell death and the decrease in cancer stem cell frequency was accentuated by TrxR2 overexpression. This was due to modulation of TrxR2 activity to NADPH oxidase like activity by mitocurcumin, resulting in higher ROS accumulation and cell death. Thus, our findings reveal mitocurcumin as a potent anticancer agent with better efficacy than curcumin. This study also demonstrates the role of TrxR2 and mitochondrial DNA damage in mitocurcumin mediated killing of cancer cells.