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The heme precursor 5-aminolevulinic acid disrupts the Warburg effect in tumor cells and induces caspase-dependent apoptosis

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Our previous study demonstrated that 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) administered to mice stimulates oxidative phosphorylation by upregulation of the mitochondrial respiratory chain complex IV enzyme cytochrome c oxidase (COX). The present study investigated whether ALA disrupts the Warburg effect, which represents a shift in ATP generation from oxidative phosphorylation to glycolysis, protecting tumor cells against oxidative stress-mediated apoptosis. The human lung carcinoma cell line A549 exposed to ALA exhibited enhanced oxidative phosphorylation, which was indicated by an increase in COX protein expression and oxygen consumption. Furthermore, ALA suppressed glycolysis-mediated acidosis. This normalization of the ATP metabolic pathways significantly increased the generation of superoxide anion radical (O2•-) and the functional expression of active caspase-3, leading to caspase-dependent apoptosis. These data demonstrate that ALA inhibits the Warburg effect and induces cancer cell death. Use of this endogenous compound might constitute a novel approach to cancer therapy.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Yokohama, Kanagawa 2268501, Japan 2: SBI Pharmaceuticals Co., Ltd., Tokyo 106-6020, Japan

Publication date: March 1, 2014

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