Mitochondrial dysfunction as an early event in the process of apoptosis induced by woodfordin I in human leukemia K562 cells

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Tannins are a group of widely distributed plant polyphenols, some of which are beneficial to health because of their chemopreventive activities. In the present study, we investigated the effects and action mechanisms of woodfordin I, a macrocyclic ellagitannin dimer, on human chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) K562 cells. The results showed that woodfordin I was able to suppress the proliferation and induce apoptosis in K562 cells. Apoptosis was evaluated by cytomorphology, internucleosomal DNA fragmentation, and externalization of phosphatidylserine. Woodfordin I treatment caused a rapid and sustained loss of mitochondrial transmembrane potential (MMP), transient generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), transient elevation of intracellular Ca2+ concentration, and cytosolic accumulation of cytochrome c. The activation of caspase-9 and 3, but not caspase-8, was also demonstrated, indicating that the apoptotic signaling triggered by woodfordin I was mediated through the intrinsic mitochondria-dependent pathway. Western blot and immunofluorescence analysis revealed that the anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL levels were downregulated, together with the pro-apoptotic Bax protein. Significantly, woodfordin I-induced apoptosis was associated with a decline in the levels of c-Abl, Bcr-Abl, and cellular protein tyrosine phosphorylation. Considering the consequence of all the events in the process of woodfordin I-induced apoptosis, the mitochondrial dysfunction is directly responsible for the pro-apoptotic effects on K562 cells. Furthermore, because CML is a malignancy of pleuripotent hematopoietic cells caused by the dysregulated tyrosine kinase activity of Bcr-Abl, these findings suggest that woodfordin I may be a potential lead compound against CML.

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