Background: Sesquiterpene lactones having α-methylene-γ-lactone moiety are promising natural metabolites showing various biological activity. One of the major metabolites isolated from Pulicaria undulata, 2α-hydroxyalantolactone (PU-1), has not been investigated in detail yet. Multidrug resistance (MDR) represents a major obstacle for cancer chemotherapy and the capability of novel natural products to overcoming MDR is of great interest. Purpose: Exploring the molecular modes of action for potent natural product metabolites. Methods: The resazurin reduction assay was employed to evaluate the cytotoxicity of PU-1 on sensitive and their corresponding drug-resistant cell lines (overexpressing P-glycoprotein, BCRP, ABCB5, ΔEGFR, or TP53 knockout). Gene expression profiling was performed by transcriptome-wide mRNA microarray in the human CCRF-CEM leukemic cells after treatment with PU-1. The top significantly up- or down-regulated genes were identified by Chipster program and analyzed using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA) software. Finally, flow cytometry and Western blotting were performed for cell cycle analyses and apoptosis detection. Results: The sesquiterpene lactone, PU-1, showed potent cytotoxicity towards the drug-sensitive and -resistant cell lines. Transcriptome-wide mRNA expression profiling and pathway analysis pointed to genes involved in DNA damage response and G2/M cell cycle arrest. G2/M arrest was verified by flow cytometry and further confirmed by the upregulation of p21 and downregulation of p-CDC25C expression in Western blotting. Moreover, the suggested DNA damage checkpoint regulation was confirmed by immunofluorescence and Western blotting by upregulation of pS345 Chk1, p-H3 and γ-H2AX. Furthermore, PU-1 inhibited PI3K/AKT pathway, which is involved in signaling DNA damage and G2/M arrest. Cells ultimately induced apoptosis upon PU-1 treatment. Conclusions: PU-1 is a potent natural product inhibiting otherwise drug-resistant human tumor cell growth through DNA damage, G2/M cell cycle arrest and apoptosis.
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