Dicitrinone B, a rare carbon-bridged citrinin dimer, was isolated from the marine-derived fungus, Penicillium citrinum. It was reported to have antitumor effects on tumor cells previously; however, the details of the mechanism remain unclear. In this study, we found that dicitrinone B inhibited the proliferation of multiple tumor types. Among them, the human malignant melanoma cell, A375, was confirmed to be the most sensitive. Morphologic evaluation, cell cycle arrest and apoptosis rate analysis results showed that dicitrinone B significantly induced A375 cell apoptosis. Subsequent observation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation and mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) reduction revealed that the apoptosis induced by dicitrinone B may be triggered by over-producing ROS. Further studies indicated that the apoptosis was associated with both intrinsic and extrinsic apoptosis pathways under the regulation of Bcl-2 family proteins. Caspase-9, caspase-8 and caspase-3 were activated during the process, leading to PARP cleavage. The pan-caspase inhibitor, Z-VAD-FMK, could reverse dicitrinone B-induced apoptosis, suggesting that it is a caspase-dependent pathway. Our data for the first time showed that dicitrinone B inhibits the proliferation of tumor cells by inducing cell apoptosis.
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