Role of p38 mapks in hypericin photodynamic therapy-induced apoptosis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells

Pui S. Chan, Ho K. Koon, Zhen G. Wu, Ricky N S WONG, Maria L. Lung, Chi K. Chang, Nai Ki MAK

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19 Citations (Scopus)


The present study aims to determine the role of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) in hypericin-mediated photodynamic therapy (HY-PDT)-induced apoptosis of the HK-1 nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) cells. HY-PDT was found to induce proteolytic cleavage of procaspase-9 and -3 in HK-1 cells. Apoptotic nuclei were observed at 6 h after PDT whereas B-cell leukemia/lymphoma-2- associated-X-protein (Bax) translocation and formation of Bax channel is responsible for the cell death. Increase in phosphorylation of p38 MAPKs and c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1/2 (JNK1/2) was detected at 15-30 min after HY-PDT. The appearance of phosphorylated form of p38 MAPKs and JNK1/2 was inhibited by the singlet oxygen scavenger l-histidine. HY-PDT-induced cell death was enhanced by the chemical inhibitors for p38 MAPKs (SB202190 and SB203580), but not by the JNKs inhibitor SP600125. Knockdown of the p38α and p38β MAPK isoforms by small interfering RNA (siRNA) are more effective than the p38 in enhancing PDT-induced cell death. Augmentation of apoptosis by p38α or p38β knockdown is also correlated with the increased proteolytic cleavage of procaspase-9 after HY-PDT treatment. Our results suggested that HY-PDT activated p38 MAPKs through the production of singlet oxygen. Inhibition of p38 MAPKs with chemical inhibitors or siRNA enhances HY-PDT-induced apoptosis of the HK-1 NPC cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1207-1217
Number of pages11
JournalPhotochemistry and Photobiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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