Isothiocyanate induction of apoptosis in cells overexpressing Bcl-2
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
The oncogenic protein Bcl-2 is overexpressed in many cancers and prevents cells from undergoing apoptosis in response to traditional chemotherapeutic agents. Recent research has focussed on the development of novel agents that can disrupt the function of Bcl-2 and trigger apoptosis in cancer cells. The isothiocyanates are a class of naturally-occurring phytochemical with potential for development as both chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic agents. This thesis investigated the ability of the isothiocyanates to induce apoptosis in cells that overexpressed Bcl-2. Initially, phenethyl isothiocyanate was shown to be cytotoxic to the Jurkat Tlymphoma cell line with an LD50 of 7.4 µM. Bcl-2 expression had little protective effect, and even greater than 50-fold overexpression only increased the LD50 to 15.1 µM. Morphological and biochemical assays indicated that death still occurred by apoptosis despite overexpression of Bcl-2. A variety of other isothiocyanates were also screened for cytotoxic activity. While the isothiocyanate moiety was crucial for induction of apoptosis, the chemistry of the side chain attached to the isothiocyanate moiety also profoundly influenced the ability of an isothiocyanate to kill Bcl-2 overexpressing cells. The aromatic isothiocyanates were generally far more cytotoxic than aliphatic isothiocyanates. However, within the aromatic isothiocyanates tested in this study the length of the carbon linker group, between the phenyl ring and the isothiocyanate moiety, also influenced cytotoxic activity. Phenethyl isothiocyanate was identified as the most promising compound when targeting cells that overexpressed Bcl-2. Given that minor structural alterations significantly altered cytotoxic activity it is hypothesised that specific interactions with cellular targets may mediate induction of apoptosis by the isothiocyanates. Finally, using a sensitive proteomic technique to label oxidised thiol proteins a preliminary investigation of the targets of the isothiocyanates was performed. A number of thiol proteins were selectively modified following exposure to phenethyl isothiocyanate. One thiol protein that consistently changed was identified as mitochondrial peroxiredoxin-3. Changes to the oxidation state of peroxiredoxin-3 occurred well before activation of apoptosis and may play a role in mediating induction of apoptosis in cells that overexpress Bcl-2. The results of this thesis have provided a platform to permit further investigation of the chemotherapeutic potential of the isothiocyanates and investigation of the mechanisms that allow the isothiocyanates to induce apoptosis in cells that overexpress the oncogene Bcl-2. In the future, the identification of primary targets of the isothiocyanates may aid the design and testing of novel anticancer drugs, and it will also provide novel insight into the regulation of apoptosis.