Metformin impairs Rho GTPase signaling to induce apoptosis in neuroblastoma cells and inhibits growth of tumors in the xenograft mouse model of neuroblastoma
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Ambrish Kumar1, Nadia Al-Sammarraie1, Donald J. DiPette2 and Ugra S. Singh1
1 Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA
2 Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA
Ugra S. Singh, email:
Keywords: Anticancer drug; Cell death; Metformin; Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK); Neuroblastoma; Rho GTPases
Received: September 02, 2014 Accepted: October 21, 2014 Published: October 21, 2014
Metformin has been shown to inhibit tumor growth in xenograft rodent models of adult cancers, and various human clinical trials are in progress. However, the precise molecular mechanisms of metformin action are largely unknown. In the present study we examined the anti-tumor activity of metformin against neuroblastoma, and determined the underlying signaling mechanisms. Using human neuroblastoma xenograft mice, we demonstrated that oral administration of metformin (100 and 250 mg/kg body weight) significantly inhibited the growth of tumors. The interference of metformin in spheroid formation further confirmed the anti-tumor activity of metformin. In tumors, the activation of Rac1 (GTP-Rac1) and Cdc42 (GTP-Cdc42) was increased while RhoA activation (GTP-RhoA) was decreased by metformin. It also induced phosphorylation of JNK and inhibited the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 without affecting p38 MAP Kinase. Infection of cells by adenoviruses expressing dominant negative Rac1 (Rac1-N17), Cdc42 (Cdc42-N17) or constitutively active RhoA (RhoA-V14), or incubation of cells with pharmacological inhibitors of Rac1 (NSC23766) or Cdc42 (ML141) significantly protected neuroblastoma cells from metformin-induced apoptosis. Additionally, inhibition of JNK activity along with Rac1 or Cdc42 attenuated cytotoxic effects of metformin. These studies demonstrated that metformin impairs Rho GTPases signaling to induce apoptosis via JNK pathway.
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