Chemoresistance represents one of the main obstacles in treating several types of cancer, including bladder and ovarian cancers, and it is characterized by an increase of cellular antioxidant potential. Nrf2 and YAP proteins play an important role in increasing chemoresistance and in inducing antioxidant enzymes. It has been reported that Ailanthone (Aila), a compound extracted from the Ailanthus Altissima, has an anticancer activity toward several cancer cell lines, including chemoresistant cell lines. We have examined the effect of Aila on proliferation, migration and expression of Nrf2 and YAP proteins in A2780 (CDDP-sensitive) and A2780/CP70 (CDDP-resistant) ovarian cancer cells. Furthermore, to clarify the mechanism of Aila action we extended our studies to sensitive and CDDP-resistant 253J-BV bladder cancer cells, which have been used in a previous study on the effect of Aila. Results demonstrated that Aila exerted an inhibitory effect on growth and colony formation of sensitive and CDDP-resistant ovarian cancer cells and reduced oriented cell migration with higher effectiveness in CDDP resistant cells. Moreover, Aila strongly reduced Nrf2 and YAP protein expression and reduced the expression of the Nrf2 target GSTA4, and the YAP/TEAD target survivin. In CDDP-resistant ovarian and bladder cancer cells the intracellular oxidative stress level was lower with respect to the sensitive cells. Moreover, Aila treatment further reduced the superoxide anion content of CDDP-resistant cells in correlation with the reduction of Nrf2 and YAP proteins. However, Aila treatment increased Nrf2 and YAP mRNA expression in all cancer cell lines. The inhibition of proteolysis by MG132, a proteasoma inhibitor, restored Nrf2 and YAP protein expressions, suggesting that the Aila effect was at post-translational level. In accordance with this observation, we found an increase of the Nrf2 inhibitor Keap1, a reduction of p62/SQSTM1, a Nrf2 target which leads Keap1 protein to the autophagic degradation, and a reduction of P-YAP. Moreover, UCHL1 deubiquitinase expression, which was increased in bladder and ovarian resistant cells, was down-regulated by Aila treatment. In conclusion we demonstrated that Aila can reduce proliferation and migration of cancer cells through a mechanism involving a post translational reduction of Nrf2 and YAP proteins which, in turn, entailed an increase of oxidative stress particularly in the chemoresistant lines.
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