The cell cycle checkpoint system play a pivotal role in the cellular DNA damage response, and the discovery of checkpoint inhibitors is expected to sensitize current cancer therapies. Checkpoint signaling cascades are critically modulated by ATM (ataxia telangiectasia-mutated) and its related molecules. Generally, ATM primarily responds to ionizing irradiation-induced DNA double-strand breaks. Heavy ions from an accelerated carbon ion beam have been used to cure cancer because they are more effective than ionizing irradiation such as X-ray and γ-radiation in terms of biological damage. In a previous study, we demonstrated that a persimmon leaf flavonol (PLF) promoted the cytotoxic effect of chemotherapeutic agents on cancer cells through inhibition of checkpoint activities, especially in the ATM dependent pathway. The present study investigated whether PLF inhibits checkpoint activity during the DNA damage response induced by heavy ion irradiation. Treatment with PLF significantly increased the cytotoxicity of heavy ion irradiation in A549 adenocarcinoma cells. The phosphorylation of checkpoint proteins such as p53, SMC1, and Chk1 was increased by heavy ions. PLF reduced the phosphorylation of checkpoint proteins. Pre-treatment with PLF significantly prevented the decrease of mitotic cells in heavy ion-exposed cells. We further evaluated tumor volume in SCID mice inoculated with human lung adenocarcinoma A549 cells. The combination treatment of PLF and heavy ion resulted in a decrease of tumor volume compared with controls, although PLF itself did not exhibit any effect. These results indicate that PLF inhibits tumor growth through modulation of the DNA damage response. PLF may be useful for clinical application in combination with heavy ion radiotherapy.
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