Timosaponin AIII promotes non-small-cell lung cancer ferroptosis through targeting and facilitating HSP90 mediated GPX4 ubiquitination and degradation

Cong Zhou, Ting Yu, Rui Zhu, Junjie Lu, Xiaohu Ouyang, Zili Zhang, Qianyun Chen, Junyi Li, Jing Cui, Feng Jiang, Kim Yun Jin, Alexey Sarapultsev, Fangfei Li, Ge Zhang, Shanshan Luo, Desheng Hu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Timosaponin AIII (Tim-AIII), a steroid saponin, exhibits strong anticancer activity in a variety of cancers, especially breast cancer and liver cancer. However, the underlying mechanism of the effects of Tim-AIII-mediated anti-lung cancer effects remain obscure. In this study, we showed that Tim-AIII suppressed cell proliferation and migration, induced G2/M phase arrest and ultimately triggered cell death of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines accompanied by the release of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and iron accumulation, malondialdehyde (MDA) production, and glutathione (GSH) depletion. Interestingly, we found that Tim-AIII-mediated cell death was reversed by ferroptosis inhibitor ferrostatin-1 (Fer-1). Meanwhile, the heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) was predicted and verified as the direct binding target of Tim-AIII by SwissTargetPrediction (STP) and surface plasmon resonance (SPR) assay. Further study showed that Tim-AIII promoted HSP90 expression and Tim-AIII induced cell death was blocked by the HSP90 inhibitor tanespimycin, indicating that HSP90 was the main target of Tim-AIII to further trigger intracellular events. Mechanical analysis revealed that the Tim-AIII-HSP90 complex further targeted and degraded glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4), and promoted the ubiquitination of GPX4, as shown by an immunoprecipitation, degradation and in vitro ubiquitination assay. In addition, Tim-AIII inhibited cell proliferation, induced cell death, led to ROS and iron accumulation, MDA production, GSH depletion, as well as GPX4 ubiquitination and degradation, were markedly abrogated when HSP90 was knockdown by HSP90-shRNA transfection. Importantly, Tim-AIII also showed a strong capacity of preventing tumor growth by promoting ferroptosis in a subcutaneous xenograft tumor model, whether C57BL/6J or BALB/c-nu/nu nude mice. Together, HSP90 was identified as a new target of Tim-AIII. Tim-AIII, by binding and forming a complex with HSP90, further targeted and degraded GPX4, ultimately induced ferroptosis in NSCLC. These findings provided solid evidence that Tim-AIII can serve as a potential candidate for NSCLC treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1471-1489
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Biological Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology

User-Defined Keywords

  • Timosaponin AIII
  • ferroptosis
  • glutathione peroxidase 4
  • heat shock protein 90
  • non-small cell lung cancer


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