Research Papers:

A short-chain fatty acid, propionate, enhances the cytotoxic effect of cisplatin by modulating GPR41 signaling pathways in HepG2 cells

Mamiko Kobayashi, Daisuke Mikami _, Junsuke Uwada, Takashi Yazawa, Kazuko Kamiyama, Hideki Kimura, Takanobu Taniguchi and Masayuki Iwano

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:31342-31354. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.25809

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Mamiko Kobayashi1,*, Daisuke Mikami1,*, Junsuke Uwada2, Takashi Yazawa2, Kazuko Kamiyama1, Hideki Kimura3, Takanobu Taniguchi2 and Masayuki Iwano1

1Department of Nephrology, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Fukui, Fukui, Japan

2Division of Cellular Signal Transduction, Department of Biochemistry, Asahikawa Medical University, Asahikawa, Japan

3Department of Clinical Laboratory, University of Fukui Hospital, Fukui, Japan

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Daisuke Mikami, email: [email protected]

Keywords: GPR41; GPR43; SCFA; cleaved caspase-3; histone deacetylase

Received: April 12, 2018     Accepted: July 12, 2018     Published: July 31, 2018


Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate are generated by microbial fermentation of indigestible fiber by gut flora. SCFAs are ligands of two orphan G protein-coupled receptors, GPR41 and GPR43, that modulate cell proliferation and induce apoptosis. However, it is unclear if SCFAs enhance the effects of chemotherapy in a GPR41- or GPR43-dependent manner. The aim of this study was to investigate whether SCFAs, and particularly propionate, activate GPR41 or GPR43, and thereby enhance the antitumor effects of cisplatin in HepG2 human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells. The inhibitory effects of propionate and cisplatin on proliferation of HCC cells were determined by MTS assay. Changes in apoptosis rate were analyzed by flow cytometry. The effects of combined propionate and cisplatin on these properties in HCC cells were significantly higher than those of cisplatin alone. With combined treatment, the levels of cleaved caspase-3, active caspase-3 forms, and acetylated histone H3 were enhanced in a GPR41-dependent manner; expression of histone deacetylases (HDAC) 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 proteins was significantly reduced; and induction of TNF-α expression was significantly enhanced. These results suggest that propionate and cisplatin synergistically and significantly induce apoptosis of HepG2 cells by increasing expression of autocrine TNF-α via reduction of HDACs through GPR41 signaling. From clinical and translational perspectives, our data suggest that a combination of propionate with cisplatin may have better therapeutic effects on HCC compared with conventional treatment, and that a selective GPR41 agonist may be a candidate as an adjuvant therapeutic agent for HCC.

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