Quinacrine induces apoptosis in human leukemia K562 cells via p38 MAPK-elicited BCL2 down-regulation and suppression of ERK/c-Jun-mediated BCL2L1 expression

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Abstract

Although previous studies have revealed the anti-cancer activity of quinacrine, its effect on leukemia is not clearly resolved. We sought to explore the cytotoxic effect and mechanism of quinacrine action in human leukemia K562 cells. Quinacrine induced K562 cell apoptosis accompanied with ROS generation, mitochondrial depolarization, and down-regulation of BCL2L1 and BCL2. Upon exposure to quinacrine, ROS-mediated p38 MAPK activation and ERK inactivation were observed in K562 cells. Quinacrine-induced cell death and mitochondrial depolarization were suppressed by the p38MAPK inhibitor SB202190 and constitutively active MEK1 over-expression. Activation of p38 MAPK was shown to promote BCL2 degradation. Further, ERK inactivation suppressed c-Jun-mediated transcriptional expression of BCL2L1. Over-expression of BCL2L1 and BCL2 attenuated quinacrine-evoked mitochondrial depolarization and rescued the viability of quinacrine-treated cells. Taken together, our data indicate that quinacrine-induced K562 cell apoptosis is mediated through mitochondrial alterations triggered by p38 MAPK-mediated BCL2 down-regulation and suppression of ERK/c-Jun-mediated BCL2L1 expression.

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