Research Papers:

Noninvasive bioluminescence imaging of the dynamics of sanguinarine induced apoptosis via activation of reactive oxygen species

Yan Wang _, Beilei Zhang, Wei Liu, Yunpeng Dai, Yaru Shi, Qi Zeng and Fu Wang

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:22355-22367. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.7971

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Yan Wang1,*, Beilei Zhang2,*, Wei Liu3,*, Yunpeng Dai1, Yaru Shi1, Qi Zeng1, Fu Wang1

1Engineering Research Center of Molecular and Neuro Imaging, Ministry of Education, School of Life Science and Technology, Xidian University, Xi’an, Shaanxi 710071, China

2Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Tangdu Hospital, The Fourth Military Medical University, Xi’an, Shaanxi 710038, China

3Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Xijing Hospital, The Fourth Military Medical University, Xi’an, Shaanxi 710032, China

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Fu Wang, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: apoptosis, sanguinarine, luciferase reporter, bioluminescence imaging, therapeutic efficacy

Received: February 05, 2016    Accepted: February 25, 2016    Published: March 08, 2016


Most chemotherapeutic drugs exert their anti-tumor effects primarily by triggering a final pathway leading to apoptosis. Noninvasive imaging of apoptotic events in preclinical models would greatly facilitate the development of apoptosis-inducing compounds and evaluation of their therapeutic efficacy. Here we employed a cyclic firefly luciferase (cFluc) reporter to screen potential pro-apoptotic compounds from a number of natural agents. We demonstrated that sanguinarine (SANG) could induce apoptosis in a dose- and time-dependent manner in UM-SCC-22B head and neck cancer cells. Moreover, SANG-induced apoptosis was associated with the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and activation of c-Jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK) and nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB) signal pathways. After intravenous administration with SANG in 22B-cFluc xenograft models, a dramatic increase of luminescence signal can be detected as early as 48 h post-treatment, as revealed by longitudinal bioluminescence imaging in vivo. Remarkable apoptotic cells reflected from ex vivo TUNEL staining confirmed the imaging results. Importantly, SANG treatment caused distinct tumor growth retardation in mice compared with the vehicle-treated group. Taken together, our results showed that SANG is a candidate anti-tumor drug and noninvasive imaging of apoptosis using cFluc reporter could provide a valuable tool for drug development and therapeutic efficacy evaluation.

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