Background: Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, and therefore, the development of novel drugs for its prevention and therapy are urgently required. This study aimed to determine the molecular mechanism of 6,7-dihydroxy-2-(4′-hydroxyphenyl) naphthalene (PNAP-6)-induced cytotoxicity in human colorectal cancer (HCT116) cells. Methods: The effects of 2-phenylnaphthalene derivatives on HCT116 cell growth and viability were assessed by MTT assays. The mechanisms involved in the regulation of the extrinsic apoptosis and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress pathways by PNAP-6 were analyzed by annexin-V/propidium iodide flow cytometric analysis, Hoechst 33342 fluorescent staining, and Western blotting. Results: PNAP-6 was shown to have an IC50 value 15.20 μM. It induced G2/M phase arrest in HCT116 cells, associated with a marked decrease in cyclin B and CDK1 protein expression and increased caspase activation, PARP cleavage, chromatin condensation, and sub-G1 apoptosis. Moreover, we found that the apoptotic effects of PNAP-6 proceeded through extrinsic apoptosis and ER stress pathways, by increasing the expression of Fas protein and ER stress markers, including PERK, ATF4, CHOP, p-IRE1α, and XBP-1s. Conclusion: These results suggest that 2-phenylnaphthalene derivatives, such as PNAP-6, have potential as new treatments for colorectal cancer.
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