Lipoic Acid Synergizes with Antineoplastic Drugs in Colorectal Cancer by Targeting p53 for Proteasomal Degradation

Cells, 2019


Lipoic acid (LA) is a redox-active disulphide compound, which functions as a pivotal co-factor for mitochondrial oxidative decarboxylation. LA and chemical derivatives were shown to target mitochondria in cancer cells with altered energy metabolism, thereby inducing cell death. In this study, the impact of LA on the tumor suppressor protein p53 was analyzed in various colorectal cancer (CRC) cell lines, with a focus on the mechanisms driving p53 degradation. First, LA was demonstrated to trigger the depletion of both wildtype and mutant p53 protein in all CRC cells tested without influencing its gene expression and preceded LA-triggered cytotoxicity. Depletion of p53 coincided with a moderate, LA-dependent ROS production, but was not rescued by antioxidant treatment. LA induced the autophagy receptor p62 and differentially modulated autophagosome formation in CRC cells. However, p53 degradation was not mediated via autophagy as shown by chemical inhibition and genetic abrogation of autophagy. LA treatment also stabilized and activated the transcription factor Nrf2 in CRC cells, which was however dispensable for p53 degradation. Mechanistically, p53 was found to be readily ubiquitinylated and degraded by the proteasomal machinery following LA treatment, which did not involve the E3 ubiquitin ligase MDM2. Intriguingly, the combination of LA and anticancer drugs (doxorubicin, 5-fluorouracil) attenuated p53-mediated stabilization of p21 and resulted in synergistic killing in CRC cells in a p53-dependant manner

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