The vitamin E family of compounds is divided into two subgroups, tocopherols and tocotrienols. However, tocotrienols display more potent apoptotic activity in mammary cancer cells. Although the mechanism(s) mediating tocotrienol-induced apoptosis is presently unknown, apoptosis is carried out by activation of initiator caspases (caspase-8 or -9) that subsequently activate effector caspases (caspase-3, -6, or -7). Studies were conducted to determine whether tocotrienol-induced apoptosis is mediated by activation of the caspase-8 and/or caspase-9 pathway. Highly malignant +SA mouse mammary epithelial cells were grown in culture and maintained on serum-free media. Treatment with tocotrienol-rich-fraction of palm oil (TRF) and g-tocotrienol, but not a-tocopherol, induced a dose-dependent decrease in +SA cell viability. TRF- and g-tocotrienol-induced cell death resulted from apoptosis, as determined by DNA fragmentation and positive TUNEL assay staining. Additional studies showed that treatment with 50 mM TRF or 20 mM g-tocotrienol increased intracellular activity and levels of processed caspase-8 and -3 but not caspase-9. Furthermore, treatment with specific caspase-8 or -3 inhibitors, but not caspase-9 inhibitor, completely blocked the tocotrienol-induced apoptosis in +SA cells. These findings demonstrate that tocotrienol-induced apoptosis in +SA mammary cancer cells is mediated through activation of the caspase-8 signaling pathway and is independent of caspase-9 activation.
Palm oil is a rich source of vitamin E, carotenoids, tocotrienols and tocopherols which are natural antioxidants and act as scavengers of oxygen free radicals. 12-O-Tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate (TPA) is a known oxidant that promotes tumorigenesis in mouse skin through the elaboration of oxidative stress. In this study we therefore assessed the anti-tumor promoting potential of palm oil against TPA-mediated skin tumorigenesis in 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-initiated Swiss albino mice. Topical application of palm oil 1 h prior to application of TPA resulted in a significant protection against skin tumor promotion. The animals pre-treated with palm oil showed a decrease in both tumor incidence and tumor yield as compared to the TPA (alone)-treated group. Palm oil application also reduced the development of malignant tumors. Since TPA-induced epidermal ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) activity and [(3)H]thymidine incorporation are conventionally used markers of skin tumor promotion, we also assessed the effect of pre-application of palm oil on these parameters, and it was observed that the application of palm oil prior to the application of TPA alleviated both these TPA-induced markers of tumor promotion. The effect of pre-application of palm oil on TPA-mediated depletion in the non-enzymatic and enzymatic molecules was also assessed and it was observed that palm oil application prior to TPA application resulted in the recovery of TPA-mediated depletion in the levels of these molecules viz. glutathione, glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase, glutathione-S-transferase and catalase. Similarly, palm oil also exhibited a protective effect against Fe(2+)-ascorbate-induced lipid peroxidation in the epidermal microsomes. The results of the present study thus suggest that palm oil possesses anti-skin tumor promoting effects, and that the mechanism of such effects may involve the inhibition of tumor promoter-induced epidermal ODC activity, [(3)H]thymidine incorporation and cutaneous oxidative stress.
Alpha-Tocopherol is known as the most abundant and active form of vitamin E homologues in vivo, but recently the role of other forms of vitamin E has received renewed attention. The antioxidant properties were compared for alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherols and tocotrienols. The following results were obtained: (1). the corresponding tocopherols and tocotrienols exerted the same reactivities toward radicals and the same antioxidant activities against lipid peroxidation in solution and liposomal membranes; (2). tocopherols gave more significant physical effect than tocotrienols on the increase in rigidity at the membrane interior; (3). tocopherols and tocotrienols showed similar mobilities within the membranes, but tocotrienols were more readily transferred between the membranes and incorporated into the membranes than tocopherols; (4). alpha-tocopherol and alpha-tocotrienol, but not the other forms, reduced Cu(II) to give Cu(I) together with alpha-tocopheryl and alpha-tocotrienyl quinones, respectively and exerted prooxidant effect in the oxidation of methyl linoleate in SDS micelles.