Since the AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)/c-Myc signaling plays a pivotal role in the modulation of aerobic glycolysis and tumor growth, in the present study, the role of AKT/mTOR/c-Myc signaling in the apoptotic effect of Compound K (CK), an active ginseng saponin metabolite, was explored in HepG2 and Huh7 human hepatocellular carcinoma cells (HCCs). Here, CK exerted significant cytotoxicity, increased sub-G1, and attenuated the expression of pro-Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (pro-PARP) and Pro-cysteine aspartyl-specific protease (pro-caspase3) in HepG2 and Huh7 cells. Consistently, CK suppressed AKT/mTOR/c-Myc and their downstreams such as Hexokinase 2 (HK2) and pyruvate kinase isozymes M2 (PKM2) in HepG2 and Huh7 cells. Additionally, CK reduced c-Myc stability in the presence or absence of cycloheximide in HepG2 cells. Furthermore, AKT inhibitor LY294002 blocked the expression of p-AKT, c-Myc, HK2, PKM2, and pro-cas3 in HepG2 cells. Pyruvate blocked the ability of CK to inhibit p-AKT, p-mTOR, HK2, and pro-Cas3 in treated HepG2 cells. Overall, these findings provide evidence that CK induces apoptosis via inhibition of glycolysis and AKT/mTOR/c-Myc signaling in HCC cells as a potent anticancer candidate for liver cancer clinical translation.
- compound K
- hepatocellular carcinoma