Initially discovered in 1938 as a “fertility factor,” vitamin E now refers to eight different isoforms that belong to two categories, four saturated analogues (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta) called tocopherols and four unsaturated analogues referred to as tocotrienols. While the tocopherols have been investigated extensively, little is known about the tocotrienols. Very limited studies suggest that both the molecular and therapeutic targets of the tocotrienols are distinct from those of the tocopherols. For instance, suppression of inflammatory transcription factor NF-kappaB, which is closely linked to tumorigenesis and inhibition of HMG-CoA reductase, mammalian DNA polymerases and certain protein tyrosine kinases, is unique to the tocotrienols. This review examines in detail the molecular targets of the tocotrienols and their roles in cancer, bone resorption, diabetes, and cardiovascular and neurological diseases at both preclinical and clinical levels. As disappointment with the therapeutic value of the tocopherols grows, the potential of these novel vitamin E analogues awaits further investigation.
The synergistic actions of atorvastatin (ATST) with gamma-tocotrienol (gamma-TT) and celecoxib (CXIB) were studied in human colon cancer cell lines HT29 and HCT116. The synergistic inhibition of cell growth by ATST and gamma-TT was demonstrated by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay and isobologram analysis. delta-TT exhibited a similar inhibitory action when combined with ATST. Mevalonate and geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate eliminated most of the growth inhibitory effect of ATST, but only marginally decreased that of gamma-TT; whereas farnesyl pyrophosphate and squalene exhibited little effect on the inhibitory action of ATST and gamma-TT, indicating protein geranylgeranylation, but not farnesylation are involved in the inhibition of colon cancer cell growth. Both mevalonate and squalene restored the cellular cholesterol level that was reduced by ATST treatment, but only mevalonate eliminated the cell growth inhibitory effect, suggesting that the cholesterol level in cells does not play an essential role in inhibiting cancer cell growth. Protein level of HMG-CoA reductase increased after ATST treatment, and the presence of gamma-TT attenuated the elevated level of HMG-CoA reductase. ATST also decreased membrane-bound RhoA, possibly due to a reduced level of protein geranylgeranylation; addition of gamma-TT enhanced this effect. The mediation of HMG-CoA reductase and RhoA provides a possible mechanism for the synergistic action of ATST and gamma-TT. The triple combination of ATST, gamma-TT and CXIB showed a synergistic inhibition of cancer cell growth in MTT assays. The synergistic action of these three compounds was also illustrated by their induction of G(0)/G(1) phase cell cycle arrest and apoptosis.
Pomegranate extracts have been used as anticancer agents and they contain a large number of potentially bioactive substances. Punicic acid is an omega-5 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid found in Punica granatum (pomegranate) seed oil. A number of long chain fatty acids have been reported to have cancer preventive actions. Here we investigated the potential ability of punicic acid to affect growth of both an estrogen insensitive breast cancer cell line (MDA-MB-231) and an estrogen sensitive cell line developed from the MDA-MB-231 cells (MDA-ERalpha7). Proliferation was inhibited 92 and 96% for MDA-MB-231 and MDA-ERalpha7 cells, respectively compared to untreated cells by 40 microM punicic acid. Furthermore, punicic acid induced apoptosis in the MDA-MB-231 and MDA-ERalpha7 cells by 86 and 91%, respectively compared to untreated control cells and disrupted cellular mitochondrial membrane potential. We also investigated whether lipid oxidation was required for the function of punicic acid by adding 20 microM of the antioxidant tocotrienol to the assays. This resulted in reversal of the effects of punicic acid on proliferation inhibition, apoptosis and disruption of the mitochondrial membrane potential. Finally, we evaluated the role of PKC signaling in the anti-cancer effects of punicic acid by performing proliferation assays in the presence of the PKC inhibitor bisindolymaleimide I. Proliferation inhibition by punicic acid was partially blocked in both the MDA-MB-231 and MDA-ERalpha7 cells. These results suggest that punicic acid has breast cancer inhibitor properties that are dependent on lipid peroxidation and the PKC pathway.
Nearly after one century of research and thousands of publications, the physiological function(s) of vitamin E remain unclear. Available evidence suggests a role in cell homeostasis that occurs through the modulation of specific signaling pathways and genes involved in proliferative, metabolic, inflammatory, and antioxidant pathways. Vitamin E presence in the human body is under close metabolic control so that only alpha-tocopherol and, to a lower extent, gamma-tocopherol are retained and delivered to tissues. Other vitamin E forms that are not retained in the body in significant amounts, exhibit responses in vitro that are different form those of alpha-tocopherol and may include tumor cell specific toxicity and apoptosis. These responses provide a therapeutic potential for these minor forms, either as such or metabolically modified, to produce bioactive metabolites. These cellular effects go beyond the properties of lipophilic antioxidant attributed to alpha-tocopherol particularly investigated for its alleged protective role in atherosclerosis or other oxidative stress conditions. Understanding signaling and gene expression effects of vitamin E could help assign a physiological role to this vitamin, which will be discussed in this review. Besides vitamin E signaling, attention will be given to tocotrienolsas one of the emerging topics in vitamin E research and a critical re-examination of the most recent clinical trials will be provided together with the potential use of vitamin E in disease prevention and therapy.
BACKGROUND: Heterodimer cooperation between ErbB receptors has limited clinical usefulness of receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), erlotinib and gefitinib in the treatment of cancer. However, combination treatment of TKIs with gamma-tocotrienol targets multiple ErbB receptors and significantly inhibit +SA murine mammary tumor cell growth.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Cell proliferation was determined by tetrazolium (MTT) assay and immunofluorescent Ki-67 staining. Western blot analysis was used to determine treatment effects on epidermal growth factor (EGF)-dependent mitogenic signaling.
RESULTS: Combined treatment of 3 microM gamma-tocotrienol with 0.25 microM erlotinib or 0.5 microM gefitinib significantly inhibited +SA cell growth and reduced cyclin D1 and phosphorylated (active) Pdk-1, Akt, Stat3 and Stat5 levels.
CONCLUSION: Combined treatment of gamma-tocotrienol with erlotinib or gefitinib prevents ErbB receptor heterodimer cooperation and inhibits EGF-dependent mitogenic signaling in +SA murine mammary tumor cells. These findings strongly suggest that combination treatment may significantly improve therapeutic responsiveness in breast cancer patients.
Objectives: Previous studies have shown that gamma-tocotrienol induces potent anti-proliferative effects on +SA mammary tumour cells in culture; here, investigations have been conducted to determine its effects on intracellular signalling proteins involved in regulating cell cycle progression.
Materials And Methods: +SA cells were maintained in mitogen-free defined media containing 0 or 4 micromgamma-tocotrienol, for 48 h to synchronize cell cycle in G(0) phase, and then they were exposed to 100 ng/ml EGF to initiate cell cycle progression. Whole cell lysates were collected at various time points from each treatment group and were prepared for Western blot analysis.
Results And Conclusions: Treatment with 4 micromgamma-tocotrienol significantly inhibited +SA cell proliferation over a 4-day culture period. Moreover, this treatment resulted in a relatively large reduction in cyclin D1, cyclin dependent kinase (CDK)4, CDK2 and CDK6 levels, between 4 and 24 h after EGF exposure. Tocotrienol treatment also resulted in a relatively large increase in CDK inhibitor (CKI) p27, prior to and after EGF exposure, but had little effect on levels of CKIs, p21 and p15. Tocotrienol treatment also induced a large relative reduction in retinoblastoma (Rb) protein phosphorylation at ser780 and ser807/811. These findings strongly suggest that anti-proliferative effects of gamma-tocotrienol are associated with reduction in cell cycle progression from G(1) to S, as evidenced by increased p27 levels, and a corresponding decrease in cyclin D1, CDK2, CDK4, CDK6 and phosphorylated Rb levels.