IJMS, Vol. 19, Pages 3964: A Ruthenium(II) N-Heterocyclic Carbene (NHC) Complex with Naphthalimide Ligand Triggers Apoptosis in Colorectal Cancer Cells via Activating the ROS-p38 MAPK Pathway (International Journal of Molecular Sciences)
The p38 MAPK pathway is known to influence the anti-tumor effects of several chemotherapeutics, including that of organometallic drugs. Previous studies have demonstrated the important role of p38 both as a regulator and a sensor of cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels. Investigating the anti-cancer properties of novel 1,8-naphthalimide derivatives containing Rh(I) and Ru(II) N-heterocyclic carbene (NHC) ligands, we observed a profound induction of ROS by the complexes, which is most likely generated from mitochondria (mtROS). Further analyses revealed a rapid and consistent activation of p38 signaling by the naphthalimide-NHC conjugates, with the Ru(II) analogue--termed MC6--showing the strongest effect. In view of this, genetic as well as pharmacological inhibition of p38?, attenuated the anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects of MC6 in HCT116 colon cancer cells, highlighting the involvement of this signaling molecule in the compound`s toxicity. Furthermore, the influence of MC6 on p38 signaling appeared to be dependent on ROS levels as treatment with general- and mitochondria-targeted anti-oxidants abrogated p38 activation in response to MC6 as well as the molecule`s cytotoxic- and apoptogenic response in HCT116 cells. Altogether, our results provide new insight into the molecular mechanisms of naphthalimide-metal NHC analogues via the ROS-induced activation of p38 MAPK, which may have therapeutic interest for the treatment of various cancer types.