Dihydromyricetin promotes autophagy and apoptosis through ROS-STAT3 signaling in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Chemotherapy is an effective weapon in the battle against cancer, but numerous cancer patients are either not sensitive to chemotherapy or develop drug resistance to current chemotherapy regimens. Therefore, an effective chemotherapy mechanism that enhances tumor sensitivity to chemotherapeutics is urgently needed. The aim of the present study was to determine the antitumor activity of dihydromyricetin (DHM) on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and its underlying mechanisms. We demonstrated that DHM can markedly induce apoptotic cell death and autophagy in HNSCC cells. Meanwhile, increased autophagy inhibited apoptosis. Pharmacological or genetic inhibition of autophagy further sensitized the HNSCC cells to DHM-induced apoptosis. Mechanistic analysis showed that the antitumor of DHM may be due to the activation phosphorylation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (p-STAT3), which contributed to autophagy. Importantly, DHM triggered reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation in the HNSCC cells and the levels of ROS decreased with N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), a ROS scavenger. Moreover, NAC abrogated the effects of DHM on STAT3-dependent autophagy. Overall, the following critical issues were observed: first, DHM increased the p-STAT3-dependent autophagy by generating ROS-signaling pathways in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Second, inhibiting autophagy could enhance DHM-induced apoptosis in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.