Synergy between parthenolide and arsenic trioxide in adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma cells in vitro

Document Type : Original Article


1 Cancer Molecular Pathology Research Center, Department of Hematology and Blood Bank, Faculty of Medicine, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Iran

2 Inflammation and Inflammatory Diseases Research Center, Faculty of Medicine, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran

3 Department of Pharmacognosy and Biotechnology, Biotechnology Research Center, Faculty of Pharmacy, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran

4 Novel Diagnostics and Therapeutics Research Group, Institute of Biotechnology, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran


Objective(s): Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL) is an aggressive lymphoid malignancy with low survival rate and distinct geographical distribution. In search for novel chemotherapeutics against ATLL, we investigated the combinatorial effects of parthenolide, a sesquiterpene lactone with valuable pharmaceutical activities, and arsenic trioxide (ATO) in vitro.
Materials and Methods: MT2 cells, an ATLL cell line, were treated with increasing concentrations of parthenolide (1.25, 2.5, and 5 μg/ml) and ATO (2, 4, 8, and 16 µM) to determine their IC50. Then, cells were treated with a combination of sub-IC50 concentrations of parthenolide (1 μg/ml) and ATO (2 µM) for 72 hr. Cell viability and cell cycle changes were assessed by Alamar blue and PI staining, respectively. To understand the mechanisms responsible for observed effects, expression of CD44, NF-κB (REL-A), BMI-1, and C-MYC were investigated by real-time PCR.
Results: Assessment of cell viability indicated that parthenolide significantly increased the toxicity of ATO, as confirmed by accumulation of MT2 cells in the sub G1 phase of the cell cycle. Moreover, molecular analysis revealed significant down-regulation of CD44, NF-κB (REL-A), BMI-1, and C-MYC upon combinatorial administration of parthenolide and ATO in comparison with relevant controls.
Conclusion: Taken together, present results showed that parthenolide significantly enhanced the toxicity of ATO in MT2 cells. Therefore, the future possible clinical impact of our study could be combinatorial use of parthenolide and ATO as a novel and more effective approach for ATLL.


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