2-Methyl-1,4-naphthoquinone (menadione or vitamin K3; EPO) and K3-2,3-epoxide (EPO1), but not vitamin K3-3-OH (EPO2), exhibited cytotoxicity that caused DNA fragmentation and chromatin condensation in U87 and C6 cells. EPO1 showed more-potent cytotoxicity than EPO, and the IC50 values of EPO and EPO1 in U87 cells were 37.5 and 15.7 μM, respectively. Activation of caspase 3 enzyme activity with cleavage of caspase 3 protein was detected in EPO1-treated U87 and C6 cells, and the addition of the caspase 3 peptidyl inhibitor, DEVD-FMK, reduced the cytotoxic effect of EPO1. An increase in the intracellular ROS level by EPO1 was observed in the DCHF-DA analysis, and EPO1-induced apoptosis and caspase 3 protein cleavage were prevented by adding the antioxidant, N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), with decreased ROS production elicited by EPO1. Activation of ERK and JNK, but not p38, via phosphorylation induction was identified in EPO1- but not EPO- or EPO2-treated U87 and C6 cells, and this was blocked by adding NAC. However, the ERK inhibitor, PD98059, and the JNK inhibitor, SP600125, showed no effect on EPO1-induced cytotoxicity in either cell type. Our findings demonstrate that 2,3-epoxide substitution significantly potentiates the apoptotic effect of vitamin K3 via stimulating ROS production, which may be useful in the chemotherapy of glioblastoma cells.
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