Activation of mPTP-dependent mitochondrial apoptosis pathway by a novel pan HDAC inhibitor resminostat in hepatocellular carcinoma cells

Over-expression and aberrant activation of histone deacetylases (HDACs) are often associated with poor prognosis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Here, we evaluated the potential anti-hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell activity by resminostat, a novel pan HDAC inhibitor (HDACi). We demonstrated that resminostat induced potent cytotoxic and anti-proliferative activity against established HCC cell lines (HepG2, HepB3, SMMC-7721) and patient-derived primary HCC cells. Further, resminostat treatment in HCC cells activated mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP)-dependent apoptosis pathway, which was evidenced by physical association of cyclophilin-D and adenine nucleotide translocator 1 (ANT-1), mitochondrial depolarization, cytochrome C release and caspase-9 activation. Intriguingly, the mPTP blockers (sanglifehrin A and cyclosporine A), shRNA knockdown of cyclophilin-D or the caspase-9 inhibitor dramatically attenuated resminostat-induced HCC cell apoptosis and cytotoxicity. Reversely, HCC cells with exogenous cyclophilin-D over-expression were hyper-sensitive to resminostat. Intriguingly, a low concentration of resminostat remarkably potentiated sorafenib-induced mitochondrial apoptosis pathway activation, leading to a profound cytotoxicity in HCC cells. The results of this preclinical study indicate that resminostat (or plus sorafenib) could be further investigated as a valuable anti-HCC strategy.

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