Sigma-2 ligands induce tumour cell death by multiple signalling pathways

C. Zeng, J. Rothfuss, J. Zhang, W. Chu, S. Vangveravong, Z. Tu, F. Pan, K. C. Chang, R. Hotchkiss, R. H. Mach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The sigma-2 receptor has been identified as a biomarker of proliferating cells in solid tumours. In the present study, we studied the mechanisms of sigma-2 ligand-induced cell death in the mouse breast cancer cell line EMT-6 and the human melanoma cell line MDA-MB-435. METHODS: EMT-6 and MDA-MB-435 cells were treated with sigma-2 ligands. The modulation of multiple signaling pathways of cell death was evaluated. RESULTS: Three sigma-2 ligands (WC-26, SV119 and RHM-138) induced DNA fragmentation, caspase-3 activation and PARP-1 cleavage. The caspase inhibitor Z-VAD-FMK partially blocked DNA fragmentation and cytotoxicity caused by these compounds. These data suggest that sigma-2 ligand-induced apoptosis and caspase activation are partially responsible for the cell death. WC-26 and siramesine induced formation of vacuoles in the cells. WC-26, SV119, RHM-138 and siramesine increased the synthesis and processing of microtubule-associated protein light chain 3, an autophagosome marker, and decreased the expression levels of the downstream effectors of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), p70S6K and 4EBP1, suggesting that sigma-2 ligands induce autophagy, probably by inhibition of the mTOR pathway. All four sigma-2 ligands decreased the expression of cyclin D1 in a time-dependent manner. In addition, WC-26 and SV119 mainly decreased cyclin B1, E2 and phosphorylation of retinoblastoma protein (pRb); RHM-138 mainly decreased cyclin E2; and 10 M siramesine mainly decreased cyclin B1 and pRb. These data suggest that sigma-2 ligands also impair cell-cycle progression in multiple phases of the cell cycle. CONCLUSION: Sigma-2 ligands induce cell death by multiple signalling pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-701
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 14 2012


  • apoptosis
  • autophagy
  • breast tumour cells
  • cell cycle
  • sigma-2 receptors


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