Gracillin exerts anti-melanoma effects in vitro and in vivo: role of DNA damage, apoptosis and autophagy

Junkui Li, Peili Zhu, Ying Wang, Xiao-Li Jiang, Zhu Zhang, Zhang Zhang, Ken-Kin-Lam Yung*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Melanoma is an aggressive cancer. Gracillin has been reported to treat various types of cancer, such as colorectal and lung cancer. However, there is a paucity of research on the anti-melanoma effects of gracillin. Purpose: The aim of this study was to assess the anti-melanoma effects and mechanisms of action of gracillin in vitro and in vivo.

Methods: Cell viability was detected using MTT and crystal violet staining assays. Cell proliferation was examined by EdU staining assays. Cell cycle arrest and apoptosis were analyzed by flow cytometry. Autophagic flux was monitored under a confocal microscope. Protein levels were determined by immunoblotting. LY294002 and rapamycin (Rapa) were used to determine the involvement of PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling in gracillin-mediated autophagy. Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) was overactivated to explore the contribution of the STAT3 signaling pathway in the anti-melanoma effects of gracillin. A B16F10 allograft mouse model was developed to evaluate the anti-melanoma effects of gracillin in vivo.

Results: We demonstrated that in melanoma cells, gracillin inhibited proliferation, induced G0/G1 phase cell cycle arrest, evoked apoptosis, and triggered autophagic cell death. Gracillin induced DNA damage in melanoma cells. Moreover, it suppressed the phosphorylation/activation of PI3K, AKT, mTOR, and 4E-BP1 in melanoma cells. Inhibiting PI3K/AKT and mTOR activity using LY294002 and Rapa, respectively, increased the protein level of LC3B-II in gracillin-treated melanoma cells. Furthermore, gracillin downregulated the protein levels of p-JAK2 (Tyr1007/1008), p-Src (Tyr416), and p-STAT3 (Tyr705) in melanoma cells. Over-expression of STAT3 in A375 cells significantly mitigated the cytotoxic and apoptotic effects of gracillin. In vivo studies showed that gracillin (1 mg/kg or 8 mg/kg, administered intraperitoneally for 16 consecutive days) suppressed B16F10 tumor growth and Src/STAT3 and AKT/mTOR signaling in tumors. No overt toxicity was observed in mice.

Conclusion: Induction of DNA damage, inhibition of PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling and suppression of STAT3 signaling are involved in gracillin-mediated cell cycle arrest, autophagic cell death and apoptosis, respectively, in melanoma cells. These findings provide novel insights into the anti-melanoma molecular mechanisms of gracillin, and suggest a potential role of gracillin in melanoma management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number154526
Number of pages13
Early online date27 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Autophagy
  • Gracillin
  • Melanoma
  • PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling
  • STAT3 signaling


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