In this study, we investigated the antitumor activity of a novel coumarin derivative, 5,7-dihydroxy-4-methyl-6-(3-methylbutanoyl)-coumarin (DMAC), on colorectal carcinoma. DMAC treatment resulted in substantial proapoptotic activity against colon cancer HCT116 and LoVo cells. Induction of apoptotic characteristics, including cellular shrinkage, chromatin condensation, and Annexin V detection, was observed following DMAC treatment. Mechanistically, we observed that DMAC elicited induction of proteolytic cascade activation including cleavage of caspase-3 and poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) expression and loss of the antiapoptotic proteins, Mcl-1 and Bcl-XL, accompanied by an increase in expression of the proapoptotic protein, Bak. In addition, suppressing c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK), but not extracellular- regulated protein kinase (ERK) or p38, substantially diminished DMAC-induced cell death and caspase-3 and PARP cleavage. However, pretreatment with antioxidants, including N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC) and diphenylene iodonium (DPI), failed to protect against DMAC-elicited apoptosis. Pretreatment with the JNK inhibitor, SP600125, suppressed DMAC-induced JNK phosphorylation, which was accompanied by a reversal of Bcl-XL expression. Moreover, combining DMAC treatment with the conventional anticancer drugs, 5-FU and CPT-11, considerably enhanced their therapeutic efficacies. Structural-activity relationship analyses further revealed that an alkylation substitution at position 6 of the coumarin ring was critical for inducing apoptosis, and the phenyl group at position 4 might have enhanced its bioactivity. Our data showed that DMAC can be used as part of a promising strategy to enhance therapeutic efficacies, and could be used to develop an approach for structure-based drug design for cancer treatment.
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