Research Papers:

Ergosterol peroxide activates Foxo3-mediated cell death signaling by inhibiting AKT and c-Myc in human hepatocellular carcinoma cells

Xiangmin Li, Qingping Wu, Ming Bu, Liming Hu, William W. Du, Chunwei Jiao, Honghui Pan, Mouna Sdiri, Nan Wu, Yizhen Xie _ and Burton B. Yang

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:33948-33959. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.8608

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Xiangmin Li1,2,3,*, Qingping Wu1,*, Ming Bu4,*, Liming Hu4, William W. Du2,3, Chunwei Jiao1,5, Honghui Pan1, Mouna Sdiri2,3, Nan Wu2,3, Yizhen Xie1,5, Burton B. Yang2,3,6

1State Key Laboratory of Applied Microbiology Southern China, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Microbial Culture Collection and Application, Guangdong Institute of Microbiology, Guangzhou, PR China

2Sunnybrook Research Institute, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Canada

3Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

4College of Life Science and Bioengineering, Beijing University of Technology, Pingleyuan, Chaoyang, Beijing, China

5Guangdong Yuewei Edible Fungi Technology Co. Ltd, Guangzhou, China

6Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Yizhen Xie, email: [email protected]

Burton B. Yang, email: [email protected]

Keywords: ergosterol peroxide, pAKT, c-Myc, Foxo3, Puma

Received: January 13, 2016     Accepted: March 14, 2016     Published: April 06, 2016


Sterols are the important active ingredients of fungal secondary metabolites to induce death of tumor cells. In our previous study, we found that ergosterol peroxide (5α, 8α-epidioxiergosta-6, 22-dien-3β-ol), purified from Ganoderma lucidum, induced human cancer cell death. Since the amount of purified ergosterol peroxide is not sufficient to perform in vivo experiments or apply clinically, we developed an approach to synthesize ergosterol peroxide chemically. After confirming the production of ergosterol peroxide, we examined the biological functions of the synthetic ergosterol peroxide. The results showed that ergosterol peroxide induced cell death and inhibited cell migration, cell cycle progression, and colony growth of human hepatocellular carcinoma cells. We further examined the mechanism associated with this effect and found that treatment with ergosterol peroxide increased the expression of Foxo3 mRNA and protein in HepG2 cells. The upstream signal proteins pAKT and c-Myc, which can inhibit Foxo3 functions, were clearly decreased in HepG2 cells treated with ergosterol peroxide. The levels of Puma and Bax, pro-apoptotic proteins, were effectively enhanced. Our results suggest that ergosterol peroxide stimulated Foxo3 activity by inhibiting pAKT and c-Myc and activating pro-apoptotic protein Puma and Bax to induce cancer cell death.

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