Background: Zerumbone, a sesquiterpene compound isolated from subtropical ginger, Zingiber zerumbet Smith, has been documented to exert antitumoral and anti- inflammatory activities. In this study, we demonstrate that zerumbone induces apoptosis in human glioblastoma multiforme (GBM8401) cells and investigate the apoptotic mechanism. Methods. We added a caspase inhibitor and transfected wild-type (WT) IKK and Akt into GBM 8401 cells, and measured cell viability and apoptosis by MTT assay and flow cytometry. By western blotting, we evaluated activation of caspase-3, dephosphorylation of IKK, Akt, FOXO1 with time, and change of IKK, Akt, and FOXO1 phosphorylation after transfection of WT IKK and Akt. Results: Zerumbone (1050 μM) induced death of GBM8401 cells in a dose-dependent manner. Flow cytometry studies showed that zerumbone increased the percentage of apoptotic GBM cells. Zerumbone also caused caspase-3 activation and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) production. N-benzyloxycarbonyl -Val-Ala-Asp- fluoromethylketone (zVAD-fmk), a broad-spectrum caspase inhibitor, hindered zerumbone-induced cell death. Transfection of GBM 8401 cells with WT IKKα inhibited zerumbone-induced apoptosis, and zerumbone significantly decreased IKKα phosphorylation levels in a time-dependent manner. Similarly, transfection of GBM8401 cells with Akt suppressed zerumbone-induced apoptosis, and zerumbone also diminished Akt phosphorylation levels remarkably and time-dependently. Moreover, transfection of GBM8401 cells with WT IKKα reduced the zerumbone-induced decrease in Akt and FOXO1 phosphorylation. However, transfection with WT Akt decreased FOXO1, but not IKKα, phosphorylation. Conclusion: The results suggest that inactivation of IKKα, followed by Akt and FOXO1 phosphorylation and caspase-3 activation, contributes to zerumbone-induced GBM cell apoptosis.
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