ABSTRACT Cancers are characterized by deregulation of multiple signaling pathways and thus monotherapies are hardly effective. Neuroblastoma, which often occurs in adrenal glands, is the most common childhood malignancy. Malignant neuroblastoma resists traditional treatments and further studies are needed for effective therapeutic interventions. We evaluated synergistic efficacy of N-(4-hydroxyphenyl) retinamide (4-HPR) and genistein (GST) for induction of apoptosis in human malignant neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y and SK-N-BE2 cells in culture and activation of multiple pathways for increasing apoptosis in ectopic and orthotopic neuroblastoma xenografts in nude mice. Combination of 4-HPR and GST synergistically reduced cell viability, caused subG1 accumulation, increased caspase-3 activity for apoptosis in vitro and reduced tumor growth in vivo. Western blotting indicated that combination therapy down regulated Id2 to induce differentiation, increased pro-apoptotic Bax and decreased anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 leading to an increase in Bax:Bcl-2 ratio, increased mitochondrial Bax level, caused mitochondrial release of Smac/Diablo, down regulation of the baculovirus inhibitor-of-apoptosis repeat containing (BIRC) proteins such as BIRC-2 and BIRC-3, and activation of calpain and caspase-3 in SH-SY5Y xenografts. Accumulation of apoptosis-inducing-factor (AIF) in cytosol and increase in caspase-4 activation suggested involvement of mitochondrial pathway and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, respectively, for apoptosis in SH-SY5Y xenografts. In situ immunofluorescent labelings of SH-SY5Y and SK-N-BE2 xenograft sections showed overexpression of calpain, caspase-12, and caspase-3, and AIF, suggesting induction of mitochondrial caspase-dependent and caspase-independent pathways for apoptosis. Collectively, synergistic effects of 4-HPR and GST induced mitochondrial pathways and also ER stress for increasing apoptosis in ectopic and orthotopic neuroblastoma xenografts in nude mice.
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